TIFF 2012 Review: I DECLARE WAR Goes To Battle with Boys and Bullying
Nobody takes the war more seriously than P.K. Sullivan (Gage Munroe with his afore-mentioned Beiber do) facies himself General George S. Patton; albeit he is young enough that loyalty is not valued as much as a collection of soldiers to throw under the bus for whatever plan he has to win-at-all-costs. Nevertheless, as the alpha-male of his team, he remains in charge. The other team, headed up by equally blonde, Quinn, has some leadership issues, and the only girl in the game which adds some pre-teen sexual tension to the equation. Mackenzie Munroe, who looks like a very young Emma Stone is really quite magnificent and has real screen presence (some of the other supporting kid actors are a bit more dodgey in their acting) sporting a brain and a crossbow and A-cups (and is not afraid to use either or all of them.) Let us be clear, while this film wears the clothing of war and adventure in the woods, it is equally interested in being a crucible for all of the kids to work out their issues and anxieties while waiting for the next battle. War is 10% violence and 90% waiting, so there are plenty of opportunities to talk about religion, philosophy (albeit at a youth level) or perhaps what species of dog would you allow to give you a blow-job if you were rewarded with riches and fame. Yes, these 12 year olds drop F-bombs often, and when provoked can be total assholes to each other.
Another popular film in the 2012 zeitgeist is the documentary, Bully, but I would offer that a subject like bullying is better handled in a fictional narrative form than as a doc, and I Declare War certainly covers several (if not all) angles of bullying probably making it the definitive new film on the subject. It further postulates that bad leadership is the worst kind of bullying, and that is something which is as applicable to the adult world as it is to the tween-set.