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By Harry Forbes
Catholic News Service

NEW YORK (CNS) -- Set near Liverpool, England, in the fictional time of a monetary changeover -- the British pound is out, the euro is in -- Danny Boyle's quirky and charming new film, "Millions" (Fox Searchlight) is a far cry from his edgy "Trainspotting."

Seven-year-old Damian (Alex Etel) is enthralled by the lives of the saints, which makes him a bit of an outsider at school when he stands up and recites hair-raising tales of his favorite saints' gruesome deaths. "Keep off the weird stuff or you won't be 'in,'" his 9-year-old brother, Anthony (Lewis McGibbon), advises him.

The boys have recently lost their mother, and are being raised by their hard-working widowed father (James Nesbitt), who at the film's start, moves them into a new home. The Christmas holidays are approaching, and the residents of the new condos are instructed by the local security chief -- with surprisingly cheerful equanimity -- that several of them are, statistically, sure to be robbed, and to prepare themselves. The residents include three squeaky-clean young Mormons.

The brothers deal with their mother's passing in their own unique way: Damian has imaginary conversations with legendary saints -- Sts. Nicholas, Francis of Assisi, Clare of Assisi (smoking a cigarette), Dorothy of Caesarea, Roch and Peter make appearances -- while Anthony, a whiz at math and money matters, takes a more pragmatic approach, and obsesses about financial security.

When Damian finds thousands upon thousands of pounds near the railroad tracks where he has constructed a cozy cardboard hideaway, he believes wholeheartedly it is from God (not aware it's stolen money), and feels duty-bound to do good by giving it to the poor which, with the help of his brother, he attempts to do.

Their beneficiaries include some homeless people (whom they treat to a big meal at Pizza Hut), charity pitchwoman Dorothy (Daisy Donovan), who is collecting money for the poor in Africa, and the Mormon trio. Anthony shares Damian's altruism, but also thinks they should invest part of it wisely in a bank or on real estate.

As it happens, it soon becomes apparent that it will be well nigh impossible to get rid of the troublesome money by either doing good with it, spending it or investing it.

As the boys get into money-related scrapes, Anthony is quick to use the surefire "our mom is dead" line, and it always elicits just the right sympathy on the part of the listener.

The boys keep the money a secret from their dad, who becomes enamored of the charity pitchwoman. Meanwhile, they're being hounded by the criminal who stole the money (Christopher Fulford) in the first place. In a climactic scene, the latter hones in on them as they perform a Nativity play at school.

Damian is distraught when he learns the money is not a heavenly gift. "I thought it was a miracle, but it was just robbed," he cries.

Eventually, the father learns of the money and is on the brink of insisting they return it to the police until he learns their house has been burgled. In his bitterness at the situation, he decides to keep the money, despite Damian's vocal protestations, "It's not right." In his anger, the father lashes out at Damian, telling him there's no God. Dad also reasons that the money -- all in pounds -- is about to be worthless anyway (in the film's hypothetical conceit), so there's no harm in keeping it.

Just then, the ominous stalker reappears and tells Damian that once Ronnie and Dorothy convert the money to euros, Damian is to let him know, or else.

Everything is set right by the end, and the film is tied up with most uplifting message, and yes, even an honest-to-goodness miracle.

Boyle's quirky little charmer -- with a clever script by Frank Cottrell Boyce -- features good performances all around, especially by the remarkable Etel who displays just the right innocence and religious fervor in delightful vignettes with the saints, The script dramatizes the themes of money and its complexities and the need for societal philanthropy without being heavy-handed, making this ideal entertainment for older adolescents and up.

The film contains a couple of mildly crude expressions, some intense episodes of menace, a momentary sexual situation, religious stereotyping, and a brief scene where the brothers look, with boyish curiosity, at a Web site for women's bras on a computer. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested.

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Forbes is director of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.


Copyright (c) 2005 Catholic News Service/USCCB. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed.
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