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Leaping back and forth between the past and present (giving short shrift to the latter), the film tells the tale of young Dito (Shia LaBeouf and Robert Downey Jr., who don't look much alike), growing up in New York in the '80s, getting his first job, discovering young love, running into racial violence...the usual, as these movies go. Dito dreams of leaving for California to form a band, but curiously, especially given the real Montiel's actual musical success, there's no indication in the movie that he ever actually plays music at all. Or even listens to it.

The adult scenes don't work so well, and feel like part of a different movie. Seeing the charismatic teen actors suddenly grow up into the likes of Rosario Dawson and Eric Roberts is jarring and even comical at times, though young Melonie Diaz is an impressive dead ringer for a young Rosario, circa Kids. But Downey, who's usually so good, feels like he's doing shtick here and doesn't seem like a rocker at all.