Millions directed by Danny Boyle, written by Boyle and Frank Cottrell Boyce, starring Alexander Nathan Etel, Lewis Owen McGibbon and James Nesbitt. A Fox Searchlight release. 98 minutes. Opens Friday (March 18). For venues and times, see Movies, page 90. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
In theory, this sounds like a radical departure for Danny Boyle . What could the director of Shallow Grave, Trainspotting and 28 Days Later possibly contribute to the world of wholesome family cinema?
Lots, as it turns out. Boyle's diverse obsessions - elaborate crimes, the corrupting power of money, Britain's place in the EU - find plenty of room to seethe in this nonetheless touching story of two small boys and a big sack of cash.
Seven-year-old Damian ( Alexander Etel ) is playing in his cardboard-box fort when a gym bag full of soon-to-be-defunct pounds falls from the sky. Convinced that the money is compensation from God for the recent death of his mother, he enlists the help of his materialistic brother, Anthony. Conflict ensues when Damian, whose imaginary friends are all Catholic saints, tries to give the money to the poor; Anthony wants to invest in real estate. It escalates as the train robber who took the money in the first place tries to steal it back before the deadline to exchange pounds for euros passes.
This could have been a kiddified update of Brewster's Millions, a celebration of conspicuous consumption. It could have been like any number of kid flicks that use a dead mother as a hackneyed heartstring-plucking device. Fortunately, it's neither, focusing instead on Damian's struggle to define goodness for himself while adapting to his family's venality. Boyle and Boyce are wise enough to take his conflict seriously, and if the solution they present is something that might be dreamed up by a good-hearted seven-year-old, that's not necessarily a bad thing in a kids' film.