‘Growing Up Smith’ is an earnest attempt at the Indian-American experience in the disco era. A movie that wants to deliver a traditional coming of age story, but from an Indian perspective. Which is a good thing. Especially in this current climate of exclusion. The problem is that the whole thing just doesn’t work.
It’s one of those movies that seems to be working well for a while. Then it hits you with a jarringly poor bit of acting, a cheesy bit of dialogue, or a series of events that just ring false. Yet, every single time that I dismissed the movie or found myself wishing I was doing something else, it would give me something worth watching. If only that ever lasted.
We all know how these movies go. There’s a little boy who really likes a girl. Parents who don’t understand. Kids who help him along his way and kids who get in his way. Which would all be fine and dandy if it worked. Sadly, that just isn’t the case.
The film top bills Jason Lee, but it’s really little Roni Akurati as Smith that the movie revolves around. And the kid is pretty good. Brighton Sharbino is also good as Amy. Well, except for a few of the more emotional sequences that she just can’t pull off. Jason Lee has his moments, but his role is one note. Honestly, the whole movie feels one note. It’s a sweet enough flick that you might not care, but there is no compelling reason to see it.
There are probably a thousand better movies about similar subjects that you could go see at any time. Ironically, there is also a great family film about Indian children that just got nominated for Best Picture (Lion). Which is why I can’t find any reason to even give a passing recommendation to this film. It sucks, but movies can’t be better just because we want them to be.