Harry Potter becomes a man in December Boys, a fun little drama about a group of orphans who are sent to live with a family by the sea for a summer. The movie won't win any awards, but it's a touching tale of friendship, love and growing up.
Daniel Radcliffe plays the oldest of four boys who find themselves on the vacation of a lifetime one summer. Having grown up in an orphanage run by nuns, they take great delight in the fact that they get a summer to themselves. Of course, as they soon discover, the trip isn't completely innocent: the young couple who is hosting them will choose one of them to be their son at the end of their vacation. Only one learns this, however, and decides to keep the truth to himself: he who knows has the best chance of "winning." Meanwhile, Radcliffe meets a beautiful young girl. As the boys face new hardships and challenges to their relationship, they must slowly realize what has made them friends and what will keep them together, in one way or another.
Radcliffe will be the first to admit that his early performances, most notably in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, are a bit cringe inducing. Watch The Goblet of Fire and then go back and watch the first films; you'll notice the difference. Anyway, my point is that Radcliffe is progressing as a fine young actor; he may not be amazing, but he has learned from his experiences and knows how to lead a film. December Boys really doesn't give him a lot of dramatic range to work with, but he succeeds in what the characters asks of him.
Overall, the movie is entertaining, whether the boys are exploring the beach, spying on naked women (even though the movie is essentially a family film, it does have some nudity) or saving each other from drowning. I wouldn't go as far as to call December Boys an adventure film, but in terms of how much "adventure" you had during any one of your summers, this one could be classified as such. The "adventure" is fun from beginning to end, and the writers and director do a good job of developing their characters throughout.
My only complaint about December Boys is that, in the end, it isn't particularly memorable. I've seen other movies like this before, and other than quality writing, it doesn't set itself apart from the rest. This isn't as much a flaw as it is the nature of this kind of drama. The only way to look at it is to compare it to classics in the past and ask yourself whether this film will join those among their ranks, and the answer is probably "no". Then again, is that a fair question to ask? I don't know.
December Boys is an enjoyable little drama. Watch the trailer, and if the movie looks good to you, then you'll probably like it.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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