A.V. Club Most Read

News Newswire Great Job, Internet!
TV Club All Reviews What's On Tonight
Video All Video A.V. Undercover A.V. Cocktail Club Film Club
Reviews All Reviews Film TV Music Books
Features All Features Newswire
Sections Film Tv Music Food Comedy Books Games Aux
Our Company About Us Contact Advertise Privacy Policy Careers RSS
Onion Inc. Sites The Onion The A.V. Club ClickHole Onion Studios

I Declare War

C+
C+

I Declare War

Director: Jason Lapeyre, Robert Wilson
Runtime: 94 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Cast: Siam Yu, Gage Munroe, Michael Friend

Community Grade (3 Users)

  • A
  • A-
  • B+
  • B
  • B-
  • C+
  • C
  • C-
  • D+
  • D
  • D-
  • F

Your Grade

?

The cutesy Canadian indie I Declare War is set in the imaginations of a bunch of war-obsessed middle schoolers as they play Capture The Flag on a Sunday afternoon. Running between box elders, beeches, and willows, the kids—a dozen or so and only one a girl—see cardboard tubes as rocket launchers, slingshots as crossbows, and paint-filled balloons as grenades. Each one idealizes a different kind of warfare; one kid slathers his face in camo like a Full Metal Jacket nihilist, while another sees herself as a Hunger Games loner. (In a neat touch, one participant’s weapon is always shown to be a toy, reflecting his lack of enthusiasm about the game.) Tactics are discussed, RC-controlled drones are deployed, and enhanced interrogation techniques—including the dreaded Indian burn—are used on enemy combatants.

There’s a germ of a satire, however facile, in the idea of making children behave like movie soldiers, drawing up battle plans with markers, smoking imaginary cigarettes, and dodging make-believe explosions. However, writer/co-director Jason Lapeyre is more interested in going in the opposite direction, using war imagery as a metaphor for childhood, where small anxieties can take on life-and-death importance.

The problem, mainly, is that Lapeyre’s kids are stock types: runts, bullies, toadies, a girl with a big crush. In essence, they are kids’-movie tropes pretending to be war-movie tropes—one layer of generic material being used to cover another. Stripped of its gunfire and special effects, I Declare War becomes a conventional boyhood drama with a big lesson about how being true to your friends can be more important than winning. Its gimmick facilitates nothing aside from the sight of 12-year-olds lugging around AK-47s.

This creates some uncomfortable intersections with reality. There’s an element of self-deprecating cultural commentary to the way these Canadian kids are fixated on American wars of intervention, but folding references to real war into the make-believe conflict opens the movie upin ways that Lapeyre perhaps didn’t intend. In the context of the film, a 12-year-old with a machine gun is a fantasy; however, in the context of the real world, it is unfortunately commonplace.