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Boy (Taika Waititi, 2010) James Rolleston, Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu, Taika Waititi; NZ

Set on the east coast of New Zealand in 1984, Boy, an 11-year-old child and devout Michael Jackson fan, gets a chance to know his absentee criminal father, who has returned to find a bag of money he buried years ago.

A let-down second feature from Eagle vs Shark director Taika Waititi.
Eagle vs Shark director Taika Waititi takes auds all the way to his hometown of Waihau Bay, New Zealand, to prove that eccentric childhoods are effectively universal with Boy, a let-down second feature expanded from his Oscar-nominated short, Two Cars, One Night. Apart from the local vistas and mostly Maori cast, Waititi has scrubbed away all culturally specific traits from his growing-up-Kiwi comedy, concentrating instead on the same things that might infatuate any other 1984-era moppet: a schoolyard crush, a missing dad and, above all, Michael Jackson. Without that arthouse-ready anthropological edge, however, Boy’s prospects look more cult than commercial. Peter Debruge, Variety.

The abundant charm of first-time actor James Rolleston, playing the 11-year-old of the title in Boy, doesn't quite save the aimless, nostalgia-woozy second feature from Taika Waititi (2007's Eagle vs. Shark). Set in 1984 in a Maori community in eastern New Zealand, the film is dominated by Michael Jackson's Thriller: Boy pathetically moonwalks to impress a crush, and he imagines, in two of several fantasy sequences, his deadbeat yet idolized dad, Alamein (Waititi), playing the King of Pop in the "Beat It" and "Billie Jean" videos. E.T., Musical Youth, and Shogun also turn up, but these pop-culture signifiers aren't enough to make up for the lack of a plot (or even a purpose). Boy works best when focusing on its preadolescent protagonist and his six-year-old brother, Rocky (Te Aho Eketone-Whitu, another impressive newcomer), motherless children prone to magical thinking yet burdened with too much responsibility. Troubles arise when anyone taller than five feet is on-screen, particularly Waititi, who quickly becomes his film's biggest liability. Enervating, repetitive scenes of Alamein's unhinged behavior (raging, bullying, drugging, digging for buried treasure) suggest the writer-director-actor underestimated the talents of the little shavers he assembled—or was unwilling to relinquish them more screen time. Melissa Anderson, Village Voice.

Garry Gillard | New: 10 February, 2017 | Now: 19 May, 2020