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I've suffered through a lot of the awful movies Kevin James has made over the last few years-- your Paul Blart, your Zookeeper, and God help me, your Grown Ups. But somehow, I still can't manage to hate the guy, despite the fact that he's become a millionaire by embodying everything that's wrong with Hollywood filmmaking. There's something inherently likable and sympathetic about him, which I guess is why so many people shell out to watch him fall down and embarrass himself in movie after movie. I'm not saying I'm proud of liking him, but I continue to hold out hope that one of these days he'll stop simply going after money and actually make a movie that's worth a damn.

As it turns out, that day may have already come. Variety reports the genuinely shocking news that James is joiing Emily Watson, Ben Chaplin and David Henrie in a U.S.-Mexican co-produced indie called Little Boy, a "family drama set in small-town America in the early days of World War II." The title character, an 8-year-old with developmental disabilities, will be played by Jakob Salvati, a newcomer cast through a nationwide casting call. No other roles are specified, and the film seems to mostly be about the boy's struggles at school, so presumably the American and British actors will fill in roles as teachers and other adults in the kid's life. Production starts in Baja California, at the same studios where they shot Titanic, at the end of August.

Mexican Alejandro Monteverde is directing the film, his second feature since 2006's surprise hit Bella-- though this is a hit in indie terms, so that means it made $40 million worldwide. By comparison, James's latest film Zookeeper has made $112 million worldwide-- and Grown Ups, the one before that, made more than twice that. Clearly James is not going to make an extra $10 million off this, and has made a conscious choice to sign on to a movie that will demand something new out of him. Regardless of how the movie turns out, or how James is in it, I now feel a little validated in my faith in the guy. It's not enough to forgive his next movie, an MMA fighting thing called Here Comes The Boom, but I'll accept baby steps for now.

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