‘Good Ol’ Boy’: Film Review

Jason Lee helps a 10 year-old Indian immigrant feel less like the oddball he is.

A crowd-friendly immigrant’s tale painted with a thick coat of ‘70s nostalgia, Frank Lotito‘s debut feature, Good Ol‘ Boy, follows an Indian family in America whose youngest child wants nothing more than to fit in. A standout supporting performance by Jason Lee will help attract attention to the uneven but likeable pic, which has plenty of commercial appeal given the right marketing.

Roni Akurati plays precocious, bespectacled Smith Bhatnagar — Dad, it seems, didn’t realize the all-American “Smith” is supposed to be a surname. Smith’s grown-up self is telling the tale, and while this narration may start well — “I met the two great loves of my life when I was 10,” he says, referring to a sweet blonde neighbor and the stranger in India who’ll be his parentally-arranged bride — the narration soon becomes a burden for the film: Its jokes aren’t witty enough to redeem a sometimes cloying, would-be-A-Christmas-Story tone. Unfortunately, the narration sticks around throughout.

The Bottom Line

A flawed but likeable fish-out-of-water tale

Smith falls hard for that neighbor (Brighton Sharbino‘s Amy), and gets some moral support from her father Butch (Lee), an easygoing dude who doesn’t understand a thing about the exotic customs and religion of his new neighbors but is willing to smile broadly and roll with it. (Up to a point: Don’t invite Butch to a cookout and not offer him steak.) Butch is a helpful role model to counter that of Smith’s father (Anjul Nigam), a nervous man who needs his son to be a high achiever in the Western world without embracing any of its values.

The screenplay draws Smith’s parents broadly, caricaturing them as an embarrassed adolescent might, but their behavior in the end veers from exasperating comedy to a high-stakes melodrama that doesn’t sit well with what precedes it. Otherwise, the picture hits many of the expected schoolyard beats with just enough specificity (the vegetarian boy’s first encounter with fried chicken, for example) to keep it from feeling generic.

Production company: Brittany House Pictures

Cast: Roni Akurati, Jason Lee, Anjul Nigam, Brighton Sharbino, Hilarie Burton

Director: Frank Lotito

Screenwriters: Gregory Scott Houghton, Anjul Nigam, Paul Quinn

Producers: Frank Lotito, Anjul Nigam, Steve Straka

Executive producers: Aaron L. Gilbert, Winson Ho, Paul Quinn

Director of photography: Thomas Scott Stanton

Production designer: Sam Lisenco

Costume designer: Mirren Gordon-Crozier

Editor: Josh Rathmell

Music: Michael Lira

Casting directors: Nicole Abellera, Jeanne McCarthy

No rating, 102 minutes