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Standing Up DVD Review

Standing Up (2013) DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Standing Up

Theatrical Release: August 16, 2013 / Running Time: 93 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: D.J. Caruso / Writers: Brock Cole (novel The Goats); D.J. Caruso (screenplay)

Cast: Chandler Canterbury (Howie), Annalise Basso (Shadow Grace Golden), Radha Mitchell (Meg Golden), Val Kilmer (Deputy Sheriff Perry Hofstadder), Kate Maberly (Margo Cutter), Charles Carroll (Mr. Carlson), Alexus Lapri Geier (Tiwanda), Deidra Shores (Lydia), Adrian Kali Turner (Calvin), Justin Tinucci (Butch), Keith Flippen (Mr. Russell), William Harrison (Bryce), Jared Kemmerling (Murphy), Daniel Caruso (Arnold), Blake Griffin (Eric), Katie Kneeland (Sara Gallagher), Frank Hoyt Taylor (Lockwood), Julie Vilanova (Susie Burns)

2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen; Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: None; Movie Closed Captioned
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5) / Black Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
DVD Release Date: August 20, 2013 (Walmart Exclusive) / Suggested Retail Price: $20.99
Also available in Blu-ray + DVD + vudu Digital Copy combo pack ($26.99 SRP)

Buy Standing Up on DVD: Walmart Amazon.com / Blu-ray: Walmart

Kids can be so cruel. The protagonists of Standing Up are reminded of that in the opening scene. Twelve-year-olds Howie (Chandler Canterbury) and Grace (Annalise Basso) are each stripped naked by peers of their gender and left marooned on a little island a mile away from the grounds of North Carolina's Camp Tall Pine.
The prank is something of camp tradition that dates back several generations. The targets are called "goats", which makes their place of abandonment "Goat Island."

Rather than supply their bullies with the anticipated amusement, Howie and Grace seize the opportunity for a Moonrise Kingdom-type scenario. They sneak away and break into a nearby cottage, where they find crackers and some ill-fitting clothes. Grace calls her recently divorced, hard-working mother (Radha Mitchell) for a ride home, but, not told the extent of the torment, Mom encourages the girl to stick it out for the second half of the six-week camp.

Instead, the two good-natured youths try to make it on their own, accepting that circumstances require them to do a little lying and stealing to get by. They wind up joining the ranks of nearby Camp Evergreen, whose ethnically diverse urban campers, despite their tough exteriors, show them kindness. The lack of ubiquitous communication (the story is set in 1984, though that is not strongly enforced and easily forgotten, save for an otherwise unbelievable An Officer and a Gentlemen reference) sees Grace's mom showing up to camp, only to learn that her daughter is missing.

In "Standing Up", twelve-year-old camp runaways Grace (Annalise Basso) and Howie (Chandler Canterbury) set their sights on a motel they just might able to sneak into.

Based on Brock Cole's award-winning and controversial 1987 young adult novel The Goats, Standing Up is adapted and directed by D.J. Caruso, whose directing credits include the PG-13 thrillers Disturbia, Eagle Eye, and I Am Number Four. That makes this a family film made by someone who doesn't ordinarily make family films. Caruso announces that much in the opening shot of forest reflected in the car window of a solemn Grace, which establishes this production as more polished and cinematic than you'd expect. It's not Hugo, but what is?

Helming a film that comes to DVD on Tuesday as a Walmart exclusive just four days after starting a one-week engagement at Laemmle's Playhouse 7 in Pasadena looks like a big step back for Caruso, whose last three movies grossed over $440 million worldwide. But while it probably paid him less and is certain to reach a much smaller audience, Standing Up gives the filmmaker a chance to prove himself with a heartfelt, coming-of-age drama.

Wearing the Dove Foundation's Family Approved seal and premiering at Walmart lowers your expectations for the movie. A trite early conversation by camp counselors seems to confirm what the title and tagline ("Together, they took a stand against bullying.") suggest, that this is going to be a preachy and lame attempt to call attention to what the media likes to sensationalize as a bullying craze. In fact, the film is a lot better than those early impressions it makes.

Grace's mother (Radha Mitchell) shows up at Camp Tall Pine with ample concern for her missing daughter. Like most direct-to-video movies these days, this one features an appearance by a long-haired Val Kilmer, who plays creepy supposed law enforcer Perry Hofstadder.

While Cole's book couldn't have much a huge impression on Caruso, who was 22 when it was published, you get the sense of that in this evident passion project's presentation.
This is a movie about children that seems certain to be more appreciated by adults. Kids generally prefer movies that entertain them to ones that make them think. Standing Up is not arthouse fare, but nor is it the feature film equivalent of a Nickelodeon or Disney Channel original. It seems much closer in spirit to the kinds of children's movies Caruso would have grown up than the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and The Smurfs. Beyond 2007's well-made Bridge to Terabithia, which is easily called to mind, this most resembles movies like Radio Flyer and maybe even Stand by Me a little.

The lead characters are well-defined and given interesting traits and backstories well beyond the thick, oversized glasses with which each is saddled. Grace, whose real name is Shadow Golden, is interested in astronauts and wanted to attend space camp. Howie claims his archaeologist parents are off working in Greece. The two don't even exchange names until an hour into the movie and that could easily have been a cutesy joke, but instead it's a believable touch conveying the different social language kids speak.

The movie's weirdest turn involves Perry Hofstadder (Val Kilmer), a creepy man who may or may not be a deputy sheriff, from whom the kids regret reluctantly accept a ride. There's also a weird boy at Camp Evergreen seemingly designed to pay homage to Kilmer with a Top Gun-esque chomp to his advances on Grace. These are the rare notes you might question in a film full of desperation driving its young characters to commit dangerous and criminal acts.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Though it's also available on Blu-ray, here, Standing Up has to settle for average standard definition picture and sound. The 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer isn't as sharp or well-defined as you'd like, but it is consistent and mostly free of imperfections. Offered in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and plain 2.0 stereo, the soundtrack doesn't do anything to grab your attention, but it also doesn't disappoint in any way.

Regrettably, ARC Entertainment continues to forgo subtitles in favor of closed captioning, which would have been fine years ago, but now falls short, being rendered inaccessible by HDMI cables that are quickly becoming the standard.

Against a scenic backdrop of autumn foliage, director D.J. Caruso discusses his smallest film to date. The film's revisited, artistic opening shot is also the first clip displayed on the inspired main menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Alongside the film, the DVD includes an unadvertised,
short, quiet behind-the-scenes featurette (6:32), which offers B-roll and comments from screenwriter/director D.J. Caruso, his top-billed cast members, and co-producer Emily Berger.

There is also a Standing Up trailer (2:01).

Furthermore, the DVD holds a code for a streamable vudu digital copy of the film, provided on the slipcovered black keepcase's double-sided lone insert.

The disc opens with trailers for Our Wild Hearts, Return to Nim's Island, and Fat Kid Rules the World.

Drawing inspiration from the closing scene, the scored main menu plays clips in the top photo in a stack next to the listings written on loose leaf.

On the run from a sketchy ride-giver, Howie (Chandler Canterbury) and Grace (Annalise Basso) discover they are dangerously close to the edge of a steep cliff.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Standing Up avoids talking down to kids, exploiting bullying, and sugar-coating childhood adventures. Surprisingly superior to most new family films, D.J. Caruso's coming-of-age drama offers a compelling ride that adults and discerning youths should both enjoy taking. There's nothing too special about the DVD, but the movie warrants a look.

Buy Standing Up on DVD: Walmart Amazon.com / Blu-ray: Walmart

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Related Reviews:
Directed by D.J. Caruso: Disturbia I Am Number Four Eagle Eye | New: What Maisie Knew The Ice Storm
Bridge to Terabithia Holes Daddy Day Camp Dolphin Tale Bully Heavyweights Fat Kid Rules the World
Chandler Canterbury: Knowing After.Life | Radha Mitchell: Olympus Has Fallen Finding Neverland Surrogates The Crazies
Flipped Hugo Diary of a Wimpy Kid Unaccompanied Minors My Life as a Dog My Lucky Elephant Pete's Dragon

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Reviewed August 18, 2013.



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