A small budget labor of love with a distinctly autobiographical flavor, John Truby’s “All-American Boy” is winningly sincere but sometimes awkwardly simplistic. Coming-of-age drama about teen’s love-hate relationship with his career military dad during the Vietnam War era has sentimental appeal for baby boomers and could find receptive auds in ancillary venues.
Jason Magnotti, an engaging newcomer with the look and smile of a young Tom Cruise, plays Jim, an army brat who’s eager to please his gruff-but-loving father (Ross Gibby) by continuing the family tradition of military service. Between the Tet Offensive and Kent State killings, however, their family becomes increasingly polarized. Jim’s older brother (Russel Harper) turns into an anti-war protestor. Even Jim questions his father’s gung-ho value system and has second thoughts about attending West Point. Pic could have generated more tension with meatier development of secondary characters — a black classmate (Richard James) and an English teacher (Dan Popowich) — whose influence on Jim is announced but inadequately dramatized. Even so, Truby earns points for even-handed depiction of Jim’s father, well played by Gibby as stoutly patriotic but harboring his own doubts about Vietnam.