Indiedom loves a prodigy. The problem, as Philip G. Flores demonstrates with his Netflix Find Your Voice-winning project “The Wheeler Boys,” is how little some young helmers actually have to say. Not everyone can be Richard Linklater or Xavier Dolan, spinning their limited life experience into distinctive personal tales. In Flores’ case, the USC grad delivers yet another of those instantly forgettable coming-of-age stories torn between the allure of adolescent misbehavior and damning the guys who bullied him in high school.
Though the contest earned “Boys” a Los Angeles Film Fest premiere, followed by 48 hours of free streaming via Netflix, it’s at least partly to blame for convincing Flores to spin his short-worthy subject into a full-blown feature, when the material was too thin to support it. Naive freshman Ted Wheeler (Lorenzo James Henrie) discovers that older brother Truck (Alex Frost) and his cool-kid gang of Kings — insiders to S.E. Hinton’s “The Outsiders” — aren’t the role models he took them to be. Flores trots out all the usual cliches, from absentee parents to virginity conquests, without adding anything meaningful except nice lighting to the mix.