There is joy in New Zealand’s ‘Boy’
By Cary Darling
Thanks to Peter Jackson’s high- tech Weta Studios, where “The Lord of the Rings” saga and many other blockbusters have been made, we get lots of movies filmed in New Zealand shown in the United States but very few about New Zealand. The decidedly low-budget yet highly heartfelt “Boy,” a 2010 Sundance Grand Jury prize winner, goes a little way to evening the balance.
Set in 1984 amid the Maori community in the picturesque but tumbledown town of Waihau, the story revolves around 11-year-old Alamein, aka Boy (the terrific James Rolleston), a Michael Jackson obsessive growing up without a dad (he’s in jail) or a mom (she died giving birth to his younger brother).
When his grandmother has to go out of town for a funeral, she leaves him in charge of all the younger siblings and cousins. No sooner than he feels he’s the man of the house, his dad (Taika Waititi, who also wrote and directed) shows up with two buddies looking for money he buried before being hauled off to prison.
How the father and son build a bond after so much time apart is the essence of this sweetly comic slice of life. It bears a similar feel to the Hawaiian-set “Descendants” – both center on dysfunctional families in “paradise” – but “Boy” is even more intensely Polynesian, offering a glimpse into a culture rarely seen on the big screen.
Be sure to stay through the start of the end credits. The ebullient coda, similar to the one in “Slumdog Millionaire,” is a fitting end to a joyous little movie.
Unrated (strong language, drug use, smoking); 87 min.
4 out of 5 stars
(c)2012 the Fort Worth Star-Telegram