"Never work with children or animals."
That quote is attributed to famed actor-comedian W.C. Fields, but it now belongs to all of show business as a humorous – and often accurate – piece of advice. See "The Last Airbender" or "Star Wars: Episode I." Then again, you could Frankenstein the talents of young Mary Badham, Jodie Foster, Tatum O’Neal and the kids from "Moonrise Kingdom," and those scripts would still come off wretched.
From performance quality to production concerns, relying on child actors is a risk or reward proposition. In the case of "The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete," the latest from director and native Milwaukeean George Tillman Jr., the results land firmly in the latter. Youngsters Skylan Brooks and Ethan Dizon end up being the best thing Tillman could’ve asked for, electrifying the film and giving the story the heart it needs.
Right from the opening moments, things are looking grim for Mister (Brooks). He’s failed the eighth grade, and his mother (a shockingly haggard Jennifer Hudson) is a resigned servant to her drug addiction and her pimp/drug dealer (Anthony Mackie). As things reach the breaking point between Mister and his mom, the police come knocking and take her away. Now, during a punishing summer heat wave, Mister must take care of himself and Pete (Dizon), his quiet Korean neighbor whose junkie mother – seen for just a fleeting moment – ran off.
The two scrape up whatever food they can to stay alive and avoid getting caught by the police – led by an intimidating Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje – and sent to a boys’ home with a history of violence. This means panhandling on the street next to an ornery homeless man (Jeffrey Wright) who may or may not be a war vet, and battling with an Indian corner store clerk (Kenneth Maharaj) who hasn’t taken kindly to Mister’s attitude.
And as the sweltering days drain the boys’ bodies and resolves, it seems more and more like Mister’s mom may have taken the same route as P…Read more...