Seeing as how 'Standing Up' tries to say something about bullying, however backhandedly it actually accomplishes this, I take it the title is supposed to be some kind of clever play on words. At its most obvious level, it means to stand up against a bully — don't take their cruelty and torment lying down. It can also means to stand up for another person. Even if the situation scares you, or the bully looks frightfully intimidating, help another person in need and don't stand idly by when someone is doing harm. And finally, the title implies something deeper, more metaphorical about not letting the harsh words and actions of others make you fear the world, but come out stronger from the experience.
All three of these connotations are played out in some way or another in this very family-friendly children's film, but the last one is the one I like best, as it seems to be the overarching theme guiding and gluing this small adventure at summer camp together. After being stripped of their clothes and abandoned on an island, two preteen strangers, Howie and Grace (Chandler Canterbury and Annalise Basso), develop a solid, sometimes romantic, bond as they resolve to never return to the camp and decide to trek through the woods until Grace's mom (Radha Mitchell) can rescue them. On their journey, the pair comes across another camp for troubled teens, learns to survive by their wits, and are picked up by a rather scary Val Kilmer playing a local deputy driving in a creepy truck.
The humiliating experience is particularly tough on Grace, a shy and incredibly timid girl, who dreams of someday working for NASA, but the tougher and more capable Howie hardly seems fazed by it, as if somewhat accustomed to the torment and ridicule of others. She's unable to utter the simplest lie to a hot dog vendor while he excuses her of stealing with I.O.U.s and keeping inventory of the loot to someday repay it. With police and camp counselors searching everywhere for them, the little fugitives spend the night at another youth camp where Howie not only stands up for himself but in defense of his new best friend from an overly aggressive older boy. Later, Grace finally learns how to think on her toes and say the right thing in order to get a free night at a motel.
It doesn't take long for audiences to figure out the two kids are doing much more than simply running away from the camp or from ever seeing the kids who played the cruel joke on them. The emotional drama punctuating this pint-sized road movie is also where Canterbury and Basso really shine, displaying a remarkable level of maturity and depth in some scenes. Basso's whiny cowardice and lack of self-confidence relates to her having no friends and dealing with divorced parents. Canterbury's street-smarts and intrepidness come from growing up with archeologists for parents, but it's clear the boy is keeping secrets. Nevertheless, this is where the film's title suggests a larger metaphorical theme, as the kids learn to deal with personal issues.
Based on the young adult novel The Goats by Brock Cole, the movie is an easy recommendation for the whole family. Adapted for the screen and directed by D.J. Caruso, the man responsible for the title change, the plot doesn't offer much of a thoughtful or insightful challenge and the entertainment factor is decent at best since the lack of a challenge extends also to our main protagonists. Their journey, both literal and metaphorical, rarely feels treacherous, and they're scarcely in any real peril, even with Kilmer's seemingly duplicitous man of the law. In fact, they had a pretty easy ride, all things considered, and the predictable conclusion is always a stone's throw away. In the end, 'Standing Up' is typical, mildly amusing family affair.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Arc Entertainment brings 'Standing Up' to Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with a Digital Copy via VUDU and exclusively through Wal-Mart. A DVD-5 sits comfortably opposite a Region Free, BD-25 disc, and both are housed inside a blue, eco-elite keepcase with a shiny slipcover. After a few skippable trailers, viewers are taken to a main menu screen with full-motion clips and music playing in the background.
Caruso's family flick takes a stand on Blu-ray with a really great-looking 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode. It's not the sort of presentation that will wow viewers, but the picture is clean and generally consistent, with excellent contrast throughout. Presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the transfer is distinct and highly detailed, showing sharp fine lines in the surrounding foliage and campsites. One or two minor scenes are softer than others, and the hotel sequence in particular appears to have been shot with diffusion lens, which frankly comes out of nowhere and fails to add anything to the moment. Brightness levels can seem a tad overdone in a few areas, exposing some negligible noise in the darker portions, but blacks for the most part are true and accurate with strong shadow delineation. The color palette is vibrant and animated with bright, vivid primaries, and natural flesh tones are revealing.
Despite coming in with a rather clean and stable soundtrack that gets the job done, the DTS-HD Master Audio track doesn't offer a whole lot that impresses, even for a recently-filmed family drama. Understandably, this is a front-heavy design where most if not all the action occurs in the three main channels, exhibiting several good moments of fluid panning and some convincing off-screen activity that's engaging. Dialogue is crystal-clear and intelligible with excellent intonation. Although imaging has its moments with a broad feel and warmth, the mid-range is also pretty uniform and limited while the low bass feels mostly anemic and noticeably lacking. A couple very light ambient effects are employed to expand the soundfield, but they are so small and negligible, they might as well not exist at all. It's good lossless mix for what it is, but nothing special either.
As a family film about confronting deep, personal issues in the young lives of the protagonists, 'Standing Up' offers decent entertainment with impressively strong performances from the two young leads. However, the film, which was adapted and directed by D.J. Caruso, doesn't offer much of a challenge to its viewers or the two main characters, making it feel like standard family fare with a predictable conclusion. The Blu-ray arrives with excellent video and a very good audio presentation, but being very light on supplements makes the overall package a rental at best.