American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
“Stony Island” is an easy-going, cheerful city movie about a bunch of kids who start a rock band -- and since the city is Chicago, there's a familiar feel. That's to say that everybody takes the L everywhere, and it's cold and gray and the puddles in the back yards are frozen over, and there's an incredible amount of energy.
The energy, I gather, came in large part from the performers themselves. The movie is more or less based on fact; the director and co-writer, Andy Davis, has a brother who was the last white kid in the block down on Stony Island, and actually was involved in a band something like the one in the movie.
The film has a loose, not to say nonchalant, story structure, but I didn't find that troublesome; it's put together something like a concert, and it has almost wall-to-wall music, played by the Stoney Island Band itself in the midst of a story about how they get together, recruit members, and enlist a veteran jazz musician to lead them.
The musician’s played by Gene Barge, a producer and arranger in real life, and his performance is relaxed and convincing: We sense he knows what he's talking about when he works with the kids - and he can certainly play the saxophone. The other key band members include Edward Stoney Robinson as the charismatic lead singer; Richard Davis on lead guitar, and George Englund as the Appalachian from Uptown who's literally recruited on an L train.