Dir: Danny Boyle UK-US.2004. 97mins
Ten years after Shallow Grave, director DannyBoyle once again discovers that sudden wealth is not without its complications.In Millions it is innocent schoolboys rather than larcenous flatmateswho are faced with a cash windfall.
Boyle's approach to the material is equally dynamicbut the screenplay by Frank Cottrell Boyce veers uncomfortably between maudlinfantasy, comic whimsy and outright melodrama. Sardonic humour and engagingperformances go a long way to lending the film charm but are not enough tosmooth over its rough edges. Difficult to categorise, Millions maystruggle to define itself as family fare or adult drama and simply fall throughthe cracks. The vastly inferior Gabriel And Me faced not dissimilar problems.
Still coming to terms withthe death of their mother, wide-eyed Damian (Etel) and older brother Anthony(McGibbon) move into a newly built home with their father (Nesbitt). Akind-hearted innocent with a passion for the lives of the saints, Damian isplaying in his own cardboard sanctuary when a bag falls from the heavens. It isfilled with money and he believes it to be a gift from God. His immediateinstinct is to share his good fortune with the poor and there's much comicmileage in his attempts to feed the homeless at a pizza restaurant and push thecash through neighbourhood letter boxes.
The protective Anthony ismore consumerist than philanthropic but disposing of the money is moredifficult than they had imagined. An added complication is the Christmascountdown to Euro Day when Britain will abandon its own currency and their cashwill no longer be valid.
The basic plot of Millionshas a hint of classic Ealing comedy (the schoolboys from Hue And Cry,the bumbling thieves of Lavender Hill) but Boyle attacks it with suchenergy that it feels entirely modern. The snappy editing, rapid fire montagesequences and throbbing soundtrack give the film tremendous pace in its earlystages and that is matched by some very funny moments.
Freckle-faced Alex Etel issuch a screen natural that his guileless do-gooder immediately captures theheart and even those fantasy sequences in which he converses with a successionof Saints don't grate or irritate.
The problems arise as thestory tries to make some progress. The thief behind the stolen money appearslike a pantomime villain threatening all kinds of mayhem but his presencecreates little menace and feels perfunctory.
The approach to Euro Day ismarked in the manner of Love Actually with a countdown to Christmas andadverts featuring the actor Leslie Phillips but this fails to inject addedurgency. The children's grief over their dead mother and their father'sattraction to a charity worker (Donovan) become the most dominant aspect of thestory but also feels the most conventional and well-worn.
When all those elements areadded together, they just don't gel into a persuasive whole no matter how hardBoyle tries to whip the film into a crowd-pleasing yuletide fantasy.
Prod co: Pathe Features Limited,Mission Pictures, Inside Track 2
Int'l sales: Pathe Int'l
Exec prods: Francois Ivernel, Cameron McCracken, Duncan Reid, David M Thompson
Prods: AndrewHauptman, Graham Broadbent, Damian Jones
Scr: FrankCottrell Boyce
Cine: AnthonyDod Mantle
Prod des: Mark Tildesley
Main cast: James Nesbitt, Daisy Donovan, Alex Etel, Lewis McGibbon, Leslie Phillips