In a surprising departure from action thrillers like Disturbia and Eagle Eye, writer-director D.J. Caruso adapts Brock Cole’s The Goats into this family-friendly coming-of-age affair. Standing Up begins as a preteen boy and girl from a generic summer camp get marooned on “Goat Island,” devoid of their clothing in your typical “kids can be cruel” prank. And just in case the forced nudity wasn’t a clear enough sign of their outcast status, both are myopically impaired and wear hipster-chic large-frame glasses. In a stroke of rebellion, Howie (Chandler Canterbury) convinces Grace (Annalise Basso) that the best revenge on their tormenters would be to disappear and escape further humiliation. So off they go into the woods and onto an adventure that’s designed to toughen them up—the advice Grace’s mother (Radha Mitchell) gives her daughter—and teach them how to stand up for themselves. Grace is at times prone to panicked melodramatic outbursts (“If you tell anyone, I’ll kill you!”) while Howie leads the way with his cooler head and survival instinct. The underlying message of this story is irrefutable: Bullying is bad! But the execution lacks the whimsical charm and nuance of similarly plotted Moonrise Kingdom as well as the power and clarity of 2011 documentary Bully. And the tonally overamplified music doesn’t help matters, either. What Standing Up does get right, however, is that adults can be clueless, and that the growing bullying epidemic in this age group is a relevant issue in need of persistent attention.
DJ CarusoRadha Mitchell, Val Kilmer, Chandler Canterbury, Annalise BassoARC Entertainment