Good Ol' Boy aka Growing Up Smith is an official Selection of the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival. Directed by Frank Lotito, the film stars Jason Lee, Anjul Nigam, Brighton Sharbino, Hilarie Burton, Poorna Jagannathan, Shoba Narayanan, Jake Busey, Tim Guinee, and features the film debut of Roni Akurati as Smith.
Smith Bhatnagar (Akurati) is not your typical boy growing up in middle America during the late 1970's. While his family, originally from India, has attempted to integrate into western culture while maintaining the ideals of their home country, the young boy has fallen in love with everything the United States has to offer which, of course includes Amy, the beautiful girl who lives across the street. Smith quickly learns that there is much more to living in America than motorcycles, fried chicken, and Star Wars lunch boxes as his family struggles to figure out how they will ever truly fit in.
This throwback to feel good movies and TV shows of the 70's and 80's took about 12 years to bring to the screen and you can just feel all those years of effort and creative energy come out as you watch the completed film. Anjul Nigam, who co-wrote and stars in the film, has been a major force behind it's creation, but it wasn't until he teamed up with Australian film maker Frank Lotito the the project really gained momentum. Some of the most obvious influences you will find go back to the likes of E.T., Stand by Me, and The Wonder Years, the latter of which I felt to be most prominent, and you can just feel that same positive energy that helped to turn each of those into the classics of their time.
The casting of this film was pretty much perfect and features the debut of Roni Akurati who is a very talented young man and should have a long career as an actor and comedian. Other standouts are Anjul Nigam (Bad Words) as Smith's father who probably supplies the most laughs and Jason Lee who submits a real honest portrayal of a man struggling to keep his family alive while also acting as a sort of hero or mentor to Smith. We also get a great performance from Brighton Sharbino (Cheap Thrills) who makes it real easy to see why Smith would fall for such a lovely young lady in Amy, the classic girl next door.
Growing Up Smith is filled with genuine heart and humor and is the type of movie that the whole family can enjoy. If the film does end up getting a distribution deal, which it really should, I could see it being the sort of surprise hit at the box office that comes about thanks to good response and word of mouth from the people who do get out there to see it. In the meantime, this will be a favorite of film festivals all over the place so, if you have an opportunity, please check it out.