The Netflix Report

Movie reviews from my Netflix queue. Highly personal and opinionated!

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006


I have to review this one from memory, as I saw it back before I was saving my reviews for posterity. But it's too good to let go without an entry on the blog.

This is one of my favorite rentals of the past few years. The movie is told as a slightly hyper-realistic fairy tale. You are prepared for the story telling by an early shot of two young brothers lying on an empty lot where their new house will be built and seeing the entire structure magically grow up into a completed structure through stop motion animation. It's cute and tells you not to worry too much about literal filming of real events.

The boys' mother has recently passed away and they are moving to this new home with their dad. The youngest boy has the curious quirk of seeing and talking to historical martyrs, each of whom he eagerly recites the "stats" for as if they were sports stars with bubble gum cards. He believes sincerely in the moralistic tales of his religious schooling. The older brother is more cynical and world-wise (but still in an immature way).

When the young boy magically comes into posession of a huge bag of money, he believes it is his obligation to do good with it for the betterment of men. His brother thinks they'd be better off buying some cool stuff.

When a new woman enters Dad's life and the secret becomes known to the entire group, they have to decide what to do. The older son doubts the woman's sincerity and thinks she might be in it for the cash. Could he be right?

The movie sets up a big conflict and doesn't really know how to get out of it, choosing instead to construct a magical ending that is far too abrupt and unsatisfying for what went before. But it's the youngest boy's story, and if that's the way he wants it, that's the way we get it.

The film belongs to the younger son, played by Alex Etel. He strikes that almost impossible balance between cuteness, sincerity, and realism that lets you accept him completely as a real kid instead of an unripe actor who just happened to be the right age.

The film is directed with surprising warmth and bonhomie by Danny Boyle, who usually handles harder-edged fare (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later). It is certainly appropriate for the entire family, although one reviewer wrote to say that the relationship between the father and his new girlfriend was inappropriate. There is also one scene showing blood on some of the martyrs who visit the boy.


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