Wednesday, March 08, 2006

MILLIONS: Great Family Treat

(family adventure)
Time: 97 mins
Rating: * * *
Alex Etel and Lewis McGibbon
IMAGINE a Nike bag stuffed with loads of cash falling on to your lap from the sky. What would you do with it? This is what happens to seven-year-old Damian Cunningham (Alex Etel) at his cardboard ‘playhouse’ near the railway tracks in the British countryside one day.

Most kids his age would go on a spending spree but not Damian. He sees this ‘manna from heaven’ as a sign to do good. And he starts distributing the money — more than 265,000 pounds sterling — to the poor, much to the chagrin of his older brother Anthony (Lewis McGibbon) who has more practical uses for the newfound wealth.

Damian, however, is not your regular kid. Like the boy in Sixth Sense, he also sees ‘dead people’ — mostly saints and martyrs like St Peter, St Francis of Assisi and even a chain-smoking St Clare. Damian’s interest in saints has a purpose. He would ask each of these ‘visions’ if they have seen his late mother in their travels through Heaven. None of them has.

Directed by Danny Boyle of Trainspotting fame, Millions may sound like a fantasy kiddie adventure but it is also rooted in reality. There is a subtle moral lesson on greed vs altruism and acceptance vs denial.

Damian, nine-year-old Anthony and their father Ronnie (James Nesbitt) have been uprooted from their old flat to start afresh in a new housing estate in the suburbs outside Liverpool. Anthony is rather stoic about the death of their mother and he even uses it to gain sympathy from strangers. Damian, however, is confused why God would take his mother away so soon — but he figures that she must be on her way to becoming a saint. And that is why he must help out by doing charity work.

On the reality side, Britain is finally converting its economy from sterling to the Euro and the boys face the dilemma of seeing their hoard becoming worthless very soon. Director Boyle works up a bit of fun showing the ploys and schemes the brothers cook up to save their money. There is also a pinch of suspense when a bad guy (Christopher Fulford) turns up to claim the missing bag of loot from a train robbery.

For fans of British film-maker Boyle, Millions must be a surprise family treat from a director who is known for strong R-rated stuff like Shallow Grave (about drugs and money), Trainspotting (about drugs and sex) and 28 Days Later (which deals in gore and zombies). But he handles this genre with the same energy and fast pace that keep us riveted to the screen.

Of course, the two young leads, newcomer Etel and McGibbon, are a godsend. They are naturally cute and appealing — and most of all they come on like real children, not just good-looking actors. Etel handles his role with such innocence that we can’t help but feel for him.Nesbitt does a fine job as the caring, bewildered father, while Daisy Donovan provides a touch of romance as a charity worker who falls for Ronnie.Make a date with Millions during this coming school holidays.


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