Josh and S.A.M. Review

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Two young brothers, Josh and Sam are disappointed when their parents divorce and their father, who they stay with, remarries. The two then decide to run away from home and end up on a road trip of mini proportions with the constantly squabbling brothers learning that they have to work together to survive.


If the majority of family films that emerged from the US in the early 90's are to be believed, somewhere in America is a school which takes chubby-cheeked toddlers and teaches them urban survival. The kids here are no exception, since Josh (Tierney) obviously took the same class as Matthew Broderick in War Games while his brother Sam (Fleiss) must be in the first grade at Macaulay Culkin High.

The two boys are trying to come to terms with their parents' divorce but hate each other in the way only brothers can. Josh envies Sam's bond with their father and stepbrothers, and playing on his younger sibling's feelings of alienation at school, convinces him that he is a Strategically Altered Mutant (SAM, geddit?) — a robotic child warrior rather than a real human being. And when Josh decides to run away, Sam, thinking he might be drafted into the military any minute, goes along, and so begins a series of comic adventures.

This junior road movie has much charm thanks to the personalities of its young stars and another beautifully enigmatic performance from Martha Plimpton, a similarly displaced person who helps to reawaken the boys' fraternal feelings. Sadly, however, none of the main adult characters ever develop beyond the usual stereotypes of the strict father, selfish mother and uncaring stepfather, and as an insight into the heartache and disruption caused by divorce this fails, sacrificing emotion to become a quirky tale of cute kids.

Where this story could have broken the mold by, for once, having a positive outlook on step-parents, it chooses not to, instead using them as the motivation for the boys to run away from home. Sadly the adults aren't interesting enough and although the boys put in impressive performances it's not enough to save the film.