Just Like the Son

on April 29, 2006 by Susan Green
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A familiar tale gets a bit of a fresh twist in “Just Like the Son,” writer-director Morgan J. Freeman's foray into the issue of impoverished children. Boone (Antonio Ortiz), whose Afro is almost as big as his six-year-old body, has a single mother with an unspecified serious illness. The kid's life changes when he meets Daniel (Mark Webber), already 20 but yet to mature beyond the juvenile delinquency stage. His petty crimes, committed with a seemingly sociopathic pal (Brendan Sexton III), land him at a Lower Manhattan elementary school doing community-service janitorial work in lieu of jail. He winds up reading books to Boone's class after the principal (Rosie Perez, in a nicely subdued performance) taps him to fill in for a substitute teacher (Dylan Blue) who's running late.

The students like Daniel and he, in turn, is especially moved by Boone's plight when he's sent to an upstate orphanage. There is an older sister who ran away from home now living in Dallas, however, and, before you can say “road movie,” the New York City twosome head southwest in the car that Daniel steals from his estranged father (Bruce MacVittie). Instead of the requisite interesting adventures along the way, however, Freeman (“American Psycho II”) confines his characters to a somewhat repetitive getting-to-know-you-getting-to-know-myself scenario. The older lad learns how to be less self-centered; the wee boy finds a surrogate dad he can trust.

Webber -- often homeless during his own hardscrabble childhood -- gives an effectively laconic performance that ensures this bonding ritual will not deteriorate into utter sappiness. Daniel is too cool to offer a mushy version of parental guidance. But, whenever it suits the script, sweetly naive Boone suddenly comes across as a precocious tyke with street smarts and almost preternatural wisdom. Inconsistency is the hobgoblin of cinematic good intentions. Starring Mark Webber, Antonio Ortiz, Rosie Perez, Brendan Sexton III, Bruce MacVittie and Dylan Blue. Directed and written by Morgan J. Freeman. Produced by Gill Holland, Jamin O'Brien and Matthew Parker. No distributor set. Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 80 min.
Tags: Starring Mark Webber, Antonio Ortiz, Rosie Perez, Brendan Sexton III, Bruce MacVittie, Dylan Blue, Directed, written by Morgan J. Freeman, Produced by Gill Holland, Jamin O'Brien, Matthew Parker, Drama
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