A vicious prank is played on two young children at summer camp and what follows is a fine coming-of-age story about two outcasts. Standing Up is D.J. Caruso’s adaptation of Brock Cole’s award-winning novel in the Young Adult category, “The Goats.” Caruso is mostly known for his competent handling in recent years of big-budget Hollywood fare such as Eagle Eye and Disturbia. Standing Up is a more personal project for the director, as he is also credited with the screenplay.
Standing Up is set in 1984, possibly as a way to side-step the modern prevalence of cell phones, and how easily their presence would solve the ongoing problems confronted by Howie and Grace. The story opens up on a small island at night outside Camp Tall Pine, setting the perfect stage for two kids to be victimized by bullies. Howie (Chandler Canterbury) is forcefully stripped naked by older teens and left in a shack with Grace (Annalise Basso), another pre-teen at the camp. Both are awkward misfits and ostracized from the normal social circles of camp life. Grace has absolutely no confidence in herself and Howie is very withdrawn.
Bullying has become a popular point of discussion and concern for today’s school systems and parents of young children. Standing Up attempts to plug into that zeitgeist as Howie and Grace quickly befriend each other and decide to make a run for it away from camp. The two children are likable in their natural uneasiness with each other and their peers. Both are natural loners and given mildly convincing backstories to justify their loneliness, which is the main obstacle they must learn to overcome together. The pair are only nerdy in the conventional Hollywood sense with over-sized glasses and somewhat disheveled haircuts. Chandler Canterbury is a dead ringer for a young Harry Potter and plays Howie with uncanny presence for a young teen actor.
Radha Mitchell plays a small role as Grace’s exasperated mother, overworked by her demanding job and emotionally distant from her only daughter. Val Kilmer makes a cameo appearance as a loony deputy sheriff, an important event in the lives of the two kids. Adults in the world of Standing Up are mere props for the two protagonists, Howie and Grace. Their adventure away from camp occurs in a series of increasingly dangerous and unlikely situations. It drives the narrative forward and forms the basis of their emotional journey to a fairly predictable conclusion.
For a PG-rated movie aimed at being family entertainment, Standing Up touches on some uncomfortable issues such as parental abuse and neglect, introducing these issues without much of a solution. The story does address the issue of bullying and its underlying mechanisms, though the presentation does get corny at times and a little too much after-school special seeps into the events.
Standing Up works best when it focuses on the growing friendship between its two lead characters on the cusp of adolescence. Their journey from outsiders to acceptance is a tale very suitable for younger audiences and provides just enough suspense and surprises to keep the adults in the room from getting antsy. Standing Up is fine entertainment that hearkens back to a simpler era, when the pressures of childhood were more direct and easier to understand.
Standing Up is presented on Blu-ray in a satisfactory manner, though it is hardly the stuff of a videophile’s dreams. Running a bit over 93 minutes, the main feature has been encoded in AVC at an average video bitrate of 25.95 Mbps. The video compression is a little touch and go at times, particularly in certain scenes with less available light. Minor bouts of banding and mosquito noise creep into the picture.
Hi-def glory seems to have been the last concern in making Standing Up. Close-ups exhibit moderate detail at best for 1080P video and compositions are overly tight in some shots. Decent sharpness and okay contrast are probably the best aspects of its picture quality. There are no serious concerns the digital intermediate has been overly processed with digital noise reduction. Most likely a movie of this type has made it to home video without a lot of serious processing along the way.
The color palette has not been excessively tinkered with to alter the natural balance of skin-tones. Even contrast leads to occasionally dull colors in a few scenes, but for the most part there are no erratic color corrections.
Standing Up is not a real looker for the format but does provide a decent Hi-def experience. Like most modern films, the picture is clean and possesses moderate dimensionality.
The family-oriented drama does not present the best opportunities for an aggressive sound mix. The 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack is thoroughly competent and creates the appropriate ambiance through some usage of the surround channels. Dialogue is crisp and completely understandable. The mix has some limited directionality and is slightly expansive across the front soundstage.
English SDH is the lone subtitle option. They are presented in a white font and displayed entirely within the 2:39:1 frame.
Arc Entertainment has provided a handful of extra features for Standing Up. First pressings include a slipcover. As a combo pack, this set also includes a DVD copy of the film and a digital code redeemable on VUDU. The VUDU copy redeems in HDX. Standing Up is currently a Walmart exclusive and won’t be widely available at other retailers until October 22, 2013.
Behind The Scenes (06:32 in HD) – A typical featurette that mostly consists of on-set interviews with the lead actors. Both Chandler Canterbury and Annalise Basso give respectable, thoughtful answers about their characters and some production tidbits. Even Val Kilmer shows up to answer a couple of questions.
Standing Up Trailer (02:00 in HD)
Trailers (04:45 in HD) – a series of trailers precede the main menu: Our Wild Hearts, Return To Nim’s Island, Fat Kid Rules The World.
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