By Fred Topel | Image property of Warner Independent Pictures.
December Boys is a coming of age story for dummies. It packs in the schmaltz and spells out all the life lessons in case you weren't paying attention. It's not unwatchable, but I certainly wasn't in the mood that day.
Movie Review: December Boys
Four Aussie orphans with clever nicknames led by the eldest Maps (Daniel Radcliffe) get a vacation for their birthdays. On the coast, they compete to get adopted by a neighboring couple while having life experiences that change them all. Awwww.
The boy mischief is good. They don't tone it down for the Harry Potter audience. They do smoke and drink and look at boobies like all real kids do. At least, the real kids who aren't wusses.
A lot of it is just playing around though. They slide down sand dunes and explore caves. That gets a bit tedious. The competitive kissing up isn't all that cute. That's where the film gets ultra schmaltzy, especially in the grown-ups' reaction to it.
It is a great vehicle for Radcliffe. Though he's not the star, Maps is the leader because he's the oldest, and he has the biggest arc. He has the young romance with a little temptress bounding barefoot on rocks. Thank God the actress is actually 21 in real life. Ultimately he gets to cry, hit people and smash things.
Some fantasy visions of nuns aren't as magical as the movie thinks they are. Only one kid has those visions though, so there are only a few scenes.
The whole narration device and coda at the end is irrelevant. The story is self-explanatory without him telling us what's going on. And tacking on how everybody ended up is going past the point of the story anyway.
Radcliffe will surely get notice for his "edgy" performance. Really, it's just being an actor. He'll do this and generic romantic comedies and buddy cop movies and period pieces too.