Film ó Millions (PG)

Millions (PG)

by Amy Diaz

Director Danny Boyle trades in junkies (Trainspotting) and monsters (28 Days Later) for saints and kids in the sweet, enchanting Millions.

Millions is that rare family movie that you can not only take your kids to but watch without feeling like youíve overdosed on JuJuBes. The movieís lead is, sure, a wide-eyed, freckle-faced kid but young Alexander Etel has a strong, genuine presence that keeps his character from becoming a cartoon of preciousness. Likewise, his very Catholic trait of seeing (or at least believing he sees) the many saints he has so well-read about doesnít come across as dogmatic ó itís just a cute quirk of an imaginative and lonely boy.

Damien (Etel) has reason to be lonely. His mom (Jane Hogarth) has recently died and Damien and his bigger brother Anthony (Lewis Owen McGibben)  have moved with their dad (James Nesbitt) into a brand-new housing division in a Manchester (UK) suburb where each boy has his own bedroom. This seems to help separate Damien even more, leaving him to talk about life with St. Peter, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Clare ó the robe-wearing visitors that stop by for a chat. His friendship with ó and extensive knowledge of ó the saints doesnít win him many friends at school. Young Damien often stands on the wall even as his brother Anthony assimilates better, even using the dead-mom-angle to con adults out of candy and get himself out of trouble. Anthony spends his free time with new friends or looking at bra ads on the Internet; Damien spends his in a giant cardboard box/pretend rocket by the side of the railroad tracks. Then one day a bag full of money falls out of the sky and onto Damienís box. He thinks itís a gift from God and excitedly shows his brother (who, to his delighted surprise, can see the money too). Anthony doesnít particularly care where the money came from but he quickly sets out to spend as much as he can. The boys face an extra deadline because the money is pounds and the country is only days away from changing to Euros. Much to Anthonyís chagrin, while heís spending the money on gadgets and paying off the local boys to be his friends/bodyguards, Damien is using the deadline as a timeline for doing good ó giving cash to poor people, buying pizza for hungry students and dropping a cool 1,000 pounds into a bin for a school charity. That last act brings Dorothy (Daisy Donovan) into the familyís life. Dorothy, the charity representative who discovers Damienís unusual gift, is particularly understanding about the boysí predicament when she meets and takes a shine to their dad. Anthony seems unsettled at the idea of having a new woman in his dadís life but the shy Damien is rather taken with her.

The movie has a fanciful quality throughout. Damienís sunniness, the devotional-card-ready saints (who, for the most part, have British accents), the ominous stranger who shows up in the area and shows an interest in Damienís declaration of wealth ó juxtaposed against the set-piece quality of the brand-new suburban development, these things help the story take on a fairy-tale feel. The movie even ends with a big good-will-filled hug that both acknowledges the fantasy quality of the story and stays true to it.

And for all this wonderment, the movie surprisingly never crosses the line into corniness. Millions is an amazing mix of heart and good humor.

- Amy Diaz

2005 HippoPress LLC | Manchester, NH