Maybe ‘Millions’ should have been given to the poor, not spent on this film

By By Jenni Koehler

By Jenni Koehler

“Millions”

Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2005

Directed by Danny Boyle

Written by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Starring Alexander Nathan Etel, Lewis Owen McGibbon, James Nesbitt, Daisy Donovan, Christopher Fulford

Opens April 15, 2005

Rated PG, 98 minutes

Two out of four stars

Fans of Danny Boyle movies-“Trainspotting,” “The Beach” and “28 Days Later”-are going to a little confused by the director’s new film, “Millions,” an overtly moralistic Christian take on capitalism.

Going from heroin addicts, shark-bait island hippies and zombies to angelic Christ-like little British boys, Boyle’s new film is a 180 in terms of subject and approach.

Utterly riddled with saints and thoroughly saturated with Christian superiority, “Millions” takes a Bible-thumpin’ approach to the family film genre.

The movie’s protagonist, ironically named Damian (Alex Etel), is just 7 years old and obsessed with God, saints and doing what is good and holy. Scientifically speaking, shouldn’t his conscience have just barely developed?

In any case, he and his 9-year-old brother, Anthony (Lewis McGibbon), have just lost their mother and moved with their slightly depressed and lonely father (James Nesbitt) to a new town to start over.

One day, during yet another saint visit-do these halo-laden paragons really visit the kid all the time or is he just plum bonkers?-a gym bag filled with money falls from the sky and lands at Damian’s feet. He and Anthony count it out to discover that they’re rich-the bag contains hundreds of thousands of British pounds.

Unfortunately, there’s not much time until the UK switches over to euros and their money will be useless-too bad, huh? The capitalistic and materialistic Anthony wants to spend it on video cell phones, real estate and the affection of his new classmates, while the beatific Damian wants to give all the money to the poor.

This would all make more sense if the brothers’ names were switched. Shouldn’t Saint Anthony want to help the poor, while Damian (the devil’s son) schemes to keep it for selfish purposes? But what’s in a name anyway?

It turns out that the mysterious bag of money came not from God, as Damian believed, but from a robbery. Now, one of the evil robbers is back for his loot and Damian has to figure out what to do. Should he give the money back to the bank or the immoral robber, or spend it on those who really need it?

Soon, knowledge of the money spreads to the adults, and doing what’s right becomes a more complicated process for the virtuous young lad.

Alex Etel delivers an atrocious performance as Damian. He hardly-if at all-changes his facial expression or tone of voice to convey the range of emotions he’s supposed to. It honestly seems like he’s reading his lines. The only thing that makes this kid bearable is his British accent-God only knows how the Brits put up with his lack of acting.

Lewis McGibbon’s Anthony is without a doubt the most engaging character in the film. Plotting how to spend the money, paying off his classmates for their friendship and repeatedly telling people “Our mum’s dead” to get free stuff, he is like a British version of “Malcolm in the Middle’s” Reese.

The best part of the film comes not with the actors, but with the way visual qualities of the film come together. Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle and editor Chris Gill’s innovative aesthetic approach almost makes you forget about Etel’s horrible acting and all the God-talk.

Trying to be cute, poignant and moral, “Millions” instead comes across as saccharine, excessively preachy and heaving with Christian pretension. It relentlessly-mercilessly, even-hammers at the audience the importance of doing what is right.

Its true message, however, deep down underneath all the religious propaganda, is that money isn’t everything. People can lose sight of what is important-or good-in the face of money, and it’s much better used to help others in need instead of feeding greed and materialism.

With such an admirable and universal message at its core, it’s truly a shame that “Millions” couldn’t find a way to get its point across without diminishing the scope of its audience. At the end of the film, it is even strongly implied that Damian is a Jesus figure-an assertion that cripples “Millions'” ability to relate to non-Christian viewers. That the film tacitly ignores the existence of other religions is alienating because it implies that non-Christian ideologies are immoral-an undeniably egocentric view.

While religious egoism is nothing new, “Millions'” approach is, at times, extreme and unnecessary. The film’s arrogance succeeds only at driving away those who don’t happen to be agree with “Millions'” doctrine, resulting in a limited audience for the message that ideally should reach everyone.

You may have heard that “Millions” is a great family film. Well, it is-for Christian families. It’s recommended that all you “pagans” stay home and wait for a more inclusive film.

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