By Shawn McKenzie 08/29/2005
For some weird reason, I was apparently the only one who didnít absolutely love director Danny Boyleís 28 Days Later. Everyone, from other critics to everyday movie fans all disagreed with me, but that was just how I felt. Fortunately, for me at least, Boyleís follow-up was an attempt at making a family film called Millions that I actually liked a little better than his quick moving zombie movie.
Seven-year-old Damian Cunningham (Alex Etel) is a very kind, spiritual kid who still mourns the recent death of his mother (Jane Hogarth.) His personal heroes are the Catholic saints St. Peter (Alun Armstrong), the patron saint of fishermen; St. Francis of Assisi (Enzo Cilenti), the patron saint of animals; St. Joseph (Nasser Memarzia), the patron saint of family; St. Clare (Kathryn Pogson), the patron saint of television; and St. Nicholas (Harry Kirkham), the patron saint of children. Damian knows all of the saints by name and date. He and his older brother, nine-year-old Anthony (Lewis Owen McGibbon), have just moved to a Manchester suburb with their father Ronnie (James Nesbitt.) The boys use their motherís death to get stuff, like candy from a sweet shop owner (Warren Donnelly.) One day, shortly before Christmas, while talking to one of Damianís saint friends in a cardboard fort near some railroad tracks, a Nike duffle bag crashes through his fort. It is filled with what he believes is millions of pounds, and that it is a gift from Heaven. He brings it to Anthony, who counts it for him (the bag actually contains just over 229,000 pounds.) Anthony doesnít think that they should tell their father, because he knows that the government will come in and take away a huge chunk of it in taxes. They both have things that they want to use the money for though. Anthony thinks they should invest it in real estate, while Damian thinks that they should share with the poor, since it is a gift from God. Damian gives some money to a Seventh Day Adventist, who claims that he is poor, and the younger Cunningham brother buys some birds from the zoo, which he then sets free. When a young woman named Dorothy (Daisy Donovan) comes to their school trying to get the kids to donate their money, which will become useless when their nationís currency is converted to Euros by the end of the year, for the poor in Africa, Damian gives her a large wad of money. Dorothy tracks down Ronnie to find out where he got the cash, and the two form a romantic interest in one another. Meanwhile, Damian meets a poor looking stranger (Christopher Fulford), whom he tells the stranger that he has lots of cash. Anthony steps in and shoos the stranger away, but the stranger then ends up hanging around frequently, making them nervous. Anthony suspects that the stranger might be the original owner of the duffle bag, so they decide to tell their dad. After having just been warned by the community policeman (Pearce Quigley) that there have been a series of break-ins lately, their house is ironically ransacked. Feeling that they are due because of the burglary, Ronnie, his new girlfriend Dorothy, and the boys decide to spend the money as fast as they can before the ďE-DayĒ deadline.
While it isnít your typical kiddie film, it is one that can be enjoyed by the whole family. The kids, both first timers, are amazingly good actors. Their chemistry with Nesbitt felt genuine as well. As far as the story goes, most people have been comparing it to 1985ís Richard Pryor/John Candy comedy Brewsterís Millions. Except for the last third of the movie, I didnít see a similarity. It was only later that I even thought of that movie.
I canít believe the man who made many R-rated movies, like 1996ís Trainspotting and 2000ís The Beach, made a movie like Millions. Even though it wasnít the best movie around, or even the best kiddie movie, at least it proves that Boyle can craft a movie for more than the R-rated adult crowd. It also helps that the movie wasnít sappy either. If it had been given more exposure, I bet that it would have made millions.
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