Saturday, February 25, 2012

“Boy” – Movie Review


This weekend in my movie class, we saw the comedy-drama from New Zealand, “Boy”, written and directed by Taika Waititi, who also appears in the film. 



When a poor boy awaits a reunion with his father, will he be disappointed to find out who the man really is?



In the New Zealand of the mid-1980’s, an 11-year-old Michael Jackson obsessed Maori youngster who goes by the rather generic name of Boy is forced into a world of his own vivid imagination in order to escape his reality – both he and his 6-year-old brother Rocky are forced to live in their grandmother’s ramshackle farmhouse with several cousins because their father is in prison and their mother died during childbirth while Rocky was born. 

When their grandmother has to leave their small village for a while, the children are left alone with Boy essentially in charge.  During this time, Boy’s dream to be reunited with the father he idolizes finally comes true when Alamein (Waititi) is released from prison and shows up at the farm house with a couple of his friends in what seems in all likelihood to be a stolen car.  Broke, the men stay at the house and immediately set out to try to dig up a sealed plastic bag filled with cash that Alamein buried in a nearby field right before his impending arrest.  The only problem is that Alamein can’t remember exactly where his modest treasure is buried, so they wind up having to dig in random spots throughout the entire patch of land in the hope they’ll eventually stumble upon the prize. 

This being the first opportunity in many years that either Boy or Rocky has had a chance to spend time with their father, they both soon come to learn that Alamein is not the man they – and especially Boy – thought he was.  Prison, it would appear, has done little to rehabilitate Alamein and Boy is now forced to see his father in his true light.  But will they be able to find the stash of money – and if they do, what impact will that have on the relationship between Alamein and his sons? 



As a comedy-drama, the comedy in “Boy” ranges between cute and amusing, but rarely (if ever) truly laugh-out-loud funny.  The dramatic undertone of the movie lurks unsettlingly in the background of just about every comedic scene, possibly causing you as a viewer to be somewhat apprehensive in your reaction to the comedy.  This is something of an oddball film and although it gives an insight into the culture of the Maori of New Zealand, there are nevertheless universal truths about family and relationships that are easily relatable. 

One of the problems I had with this movie was, quite frankly, with the dialog – or perhaps, more to the point, the dialect of its characters.  Between their accents, regional slang and occasional use of Maori words, it was sometimes difficult for me to understand what was being said.  Additionally, while you sympathize with the character of Boy, you realize that ultimately, he will still be stuck in his life of poverty, regardless of what the outcome will be between him and his father, which casts something of a pall over the entire story. 

Following the screening, our instructor interviewed writer-director Taika Waititi, who also appeared in the film as Boy’s father, Alamein.  To the point I raised above about understanding the characters, he said that he had been encouraged to “clean-up” the sound by re-recording some of the dialog (in a process known as ADR or Automated Dialog Replacement, also known as “dubbing”); Waititi said that he ultimately chose not to do so because he felt that despite the technological advancements made over the years, the dubbing would come across as too obvious in the movie and also the original performances by the kids would lose some of the energy and enthusiasm as a result. 


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