×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Goat Island

This low-budget passion project from "Eagle Eye" director D.J. Caruso offers a practical solution to the issue of adolescent bullying.

With:
With: Chandler Canterbury, Annalise Basso, Kate Maberly, Charles Carroll, Alexus Lapri Geier, Justin Tinucci, Radha Mitchell, Val Kilmer.

Quietly screening in the market the same day Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom” kicked off the Cannes fest proper, “Goat Island” offers an alternate, more realistic tale of two summer-camp runaways roughing it in the woods alone. Based on Brock Cole’s controversial young-adult novel “The Goats,” this low-budget passion project from “Eagle Eye” director D.J. Caruso offers a practical solution to the issue of adolescent bullying, as its two young protags respond to a case of vicious hazing not with despair or retaliation, but through teamwork and character-building. Marketing challenges aside, this quality coming-of-ager deserves a proper release.

A throwback to the no-nonsense kidpics common circa 1985, when the adventure is set, “Goat Island” begins with the opposite of a meet-cute, as traumatized 13-year-olds Howie (Chandler Canterbury) and Grace (Annalise Basso) are both tricked by their fellow campers. But the humiliation, handled as tastefully as possible onscreen, goes well beyond abandonment. Every year, the cool kids pick two unlucky “goats,” whom they strip and strand for the night in the middle of Camp Tall Pine’s intimidating lake.

The script chillingly depicts a certain institutional acceptance of the tradition, suggesting that counselors and returning campers indulge the bullying as a sort of trial by fire for those least suited to cope with being teased and ostracized. No matter how long the practice has been going on, however, no goats have ever responded the way Howie and Grace do.

Instead of remaining victims, the two kids swim back to shore, where they ditch the camp and set off on a journey of their own around upstate New York (made lovelier courtesy of a picturesque Georgia shoot). At first, the duo seem weak and unlikable, which gives auds a taste of why they might have been chosen for the prank, but as their confidence in themselves grows, they begin to evince qualities no one else has seen in them, effectively conveyed by the young actors. For Howie, the transition comes when stealing two fresh sets of clothes from a rude concession-stand operator; for Grace, conning her way into a free hotel room reveals her fully out of her shell.

Essentially, what the experience teaches them is self-reliance — the skill that, when coupled with empathy, marks the passage into maturity. Watching Howie handle a confrontation with a bully at a neighboring camp in an unexpectedly sensitive way proves how far they’ve come in a short amount of time. Episodic by nature, the teens’ three-day excursion forces them to bend all sorts of rules, including lying to Grace’s mother (Radha Mitchell) and escaping a sleazy deputy sheriff (Val Kilmer, looking even more desperate than he did in Caruso’s “The Salton Sea”).

If “Goat Island” sounds harsh or potentially even unsuitable for kids (the novel ranked No. 30 on the American Library Assn.’s most frequently challenged books of the past decade), a constructive way to think of Cole’s touchy allegory is as a reversal on “The Lord of the Flies.” Possibly retitled to avoid confusion with Brad Land’s better-known frat-hazing memoir, “Goat Island” pays the thugs little mind, focusing instead on how such a challenging situation can actually bring out the best in those who are being tested most.

Reportedly shot in 18 days on a fraction of Caruso’s usual budget, the film nimbly works around its limitations, apart from another derivative-sounding score from composer Brian Tyler and the occasionally clunky child-actor moment. Though unconvincing early on, Basso blossoms as the story unfolds, while the more consistent Canterbury enhances his role with small touches. In both cases, oversized and intentionally dorky eyeglasses make the kids appear more awkward than they are, while pro-quality sound work makes the pic seem less awkward than it is.

Goat Island

Production: A Geyer Kosinski/Alexander Rodnyansky/Seven Star Pictures production. (International sales: Aldamisa, Encino, Calif.) Produced by Rodnyansky, Kosinski. Executive producers, John McAdams, Sergei Bespalov, James D. Brubaker, Ken Aguado, Boris Teterev. Co-producers, Emily Berger, Janet Wattles, Chester James Semel, Brij Desai. Directed, written by D.J. Caruso, based on the novel "The Goats" by Brock Cole.

Crew: Camera (color, Panavision widescreen), Alex Nepomniaschy; editor, Josh Bodnar; music, Brian Tyler; production designer, Thomas Valentine; art directors, Rebecca Brown, E. Cedar McClure; costume designer, Carolyn Berger; sound (Dolby Digital/SDDS/Datasat), Matthew Nicolay; sound designers, Hector Gika, Ezra Dweck, Dan Hegeman; supervising sound editor, Karen Baker Landers; re-recording mixers, Mike Prestwood Smith, Michael Keller; special effects coordinator, David Fletcher; visual effects supervisor, Jasen Jaz Nannini; visual effects, Somnyo Films; stunt coordinator, Anderson Martin; associate producer, Regina Warendorp; assistant director, James M. Freitag; casting, Tricia Wood, Deborah Aquila, Jennifer Smith. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 16, 2012. Running time: 93 MIN.

With: With: Chandler Canterbury, Annalise Basso, Kate Maberly, Charles Carroll, Alexus Lapri Geier, Justin Tinucci, Radha Mitchell, Val Kilmer.

More Film

  • 'Dumplin'' Review: Netflix's Sweet, Dolly Parton-Blessed

    Film Review: 'Dumplin''

    “I’m not the Dalai Lama, but I’ll try to offer up a few words of advice,” Dolly Parton chirped in her 2008 single “Better Get to Livin’,” before doling out exactly the brand of wholesome, no-nonsense wisdom you’d expect from the indefatigable country queen: If you keep your head up, keep moving forward and say [...]

  • Russell BobbittMarvel Studios talk at Beth

    The Best Gifts For Marvel Fans

    From the success of “Deadpool 2” (stream, $5.99 on Amazon) to the rise of “Black Panther” (stream, $3.99 on Amazon) 2018 was a big year for the Marvel Universe. With the holidays just around the corner, we’ve rounded up some of the best Marvel-related gifts, fit for wannabe superheroes, and casual fans alike. 1. Spider-Man [...]

  • Valerian

    EuropaCorp in Advanced Talks to Sell Off Its Post-Production Facility (EXCLUSIVE)

    Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp is in advanced discussions to sell its vast post-production facility, Digital Factory, to Chinese research and engineering studio Southbay, Variety has learned. Southbay specializes in 3D conversion, VFX and post-production for film and TV, and has offices in Los Angeles and in Hangzhou and Shaoxing in China. EuropaCorp is one of Southbay’s clients, along [...]

  • 'Self-Portrait With Boy' in Development at

    'Self-Portrait With Boy' in Development at Topic Studios

    Topic Studios (“Leave No Trace”) has bought rights to Rachel Lyon’s debut novel “Self-Portrait With Boy” and plans to develop the project as a feature film. Lyon will adapt her own novel. John Lyons (“Boogie Nights”), who recently signed a first-look deal with Topic Studios, has come on board to produce. More Reviews Film Review: [...]

  • Ventana Sur Animation Panel Focuses On

    Ricardo Cortes Vera Talks Audience-Driven Content at Ventana Sur

    BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Ricardo Cortes Vera, commissioning editor for Señal Colombia, introduced the audience-driven children’s content his company is renowned for in hopes of encouraging a crowd of animators into submitting their own work to the channel. He did so in a keynote address given Tuesday afternoon in Buenos Aires, at the Animation! strand [...]

  • Films by Francois Ozon, Fatih Akin

    Berlin Film Festival: New Films by Francois Ozon, Fatih Akin, Denis Cote in Competition

    New films by Francois Ozon, Fatih Akin and Denis Cote are among the titles that will compete for the Golden Bear at the upcoming Berlin Film Festival. German director Akin’s “Der Goldene Handschuh” (“The Golden Glove”) and French helmer Ozon’s “Grâce à dieu” (“By the Grace of God”) were announced by the Berlinale in its [...]

  • Picture Tree Sells Berlin Competition Film

    Picture Tree Sells Berlin Competition Title 'The Ground Beneath My Feet'

    Picture Tree Intl. is on board as the sales agent for “The Ground Beneath My Feet” (Der Boden Unter Den Füssen), which the Berlin Film Festival revealed Thursday will be in its main competition section. The Austrian drama, directed by Marie Kreutzer, stars Valerie Pachner, Mavie Hörbiger and Pia Hierzegger. The film centers on high-powered [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content