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Not Exactly One in a Million

Millions is the kind of feel good movie that in the hands of a director less imaginative and whimsical than Danny Boyle (28 Days Later) could have easily become a sappy tale about the pleasures and perils of a sudden windfall. Boyle's slightly askew view injects some interesting angles into this otherwise straightforward story. Personally, I prefer Boyle exploring the darker side of life. But, after exploring the near destruction of humanity via a virulent plague (28 Days Later) and delving into the self-destructive world of drug addiction (Trainspotting), perhaps Danny was in need of an upbeat palate cleansing.

Millions provides just that. Additionally, the movie provides a new twist on the familiar story of someone unexpectedly stumbling onto vast sums of cash. The twist here is seeing a child's perspective on such a conundrum. More specifically, we see the na´ve perspective of two young brothers. Damian (played by debut actor Alexander Nathan Etel) views the windfall as a "gift from God". Naturally, this would be his take given his affinity for patron saints and his tendency to have lengthy conversations with them. Damian views this "blessing" as an opportunity to give to the poor and emulate the saint like behavior he so admires. Scarcely comprehending the significance of the sum he's acquired, Damian all too cavalierly unloads vast sums to those less fortunate.

Conversely, the older and more jaded Anthony (Lewis Owen McGibbon) better comprehends the significance of the pile of pounds underneath Damian's bed. Anthony sees the money as an "opportunity" and readily seizes upon it to acquire status and a plethora of toys. As expected, the two boys' conflicting views on where the money originated and how to best utilize it complicates their lives (and that of their widowed father).

Further complicating matters is the imminent conversion of pounds to euros. In a matter of days, Damian and Anthony's stash will be worthless unless it's spent or put into a bank account. Accomplishing either of these tasks proves to be challenging.

But, it's hard to imagine that Danny Boyle would allow anything truly terrible to befall the boys (given the fact that their mother recently died). However, what's odd at times is seeing the boys wantonly using their mother's death as a device for manipulating others (hardly saint-like behavior!). While it's evident the boys miss their mother, it hardly seems like they're grieving.

While Boyle's characterization of the boys is somewhat confusing, he excels in capturing the wildly imaginative world they live in. Early on, Damian and Anthony imagine the rapid construction of their new home. Through time lapse, Boyle shows the frenetic construction of the walls, windows, and ceilings as Anthony and Damian lie on the ground watching the evolution of their home. Furthermore, Damian's "imaginary" conversations with various patron saints are hysterical! Boyle vividly captures the colorful imaginings of Damian and Anthony in a wonderfully creative way. I was reminded of the vivid hallucinations of the drug-addicted characters from Trainspotting.

Aside from Boyle's excellent visualization of a child's world and a great performance from debut actor Alexander Nathan Etel, Millions doesn't exactly strike the cinematic mother lode. Despite Danny Boyle's efforts, this movie doesn't manage to matriculate beyond a marginally average feel good film. I'd encourage Boyle to include some drug addiction, virulent plagues, and/or zombies next time.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars