As the Harry Potter franchise heads into the home stretch of films, some of the film’s young cast members are attempting to break out into other roles, or at least employ a little bit more emotional depth in the roles that they’ve made into small cottage businesses. And of course, the biggest one in the bunch is Harry himself, Daniel Radcliffe. He’s appeared in a London played named “Equus”, in which he appeared nude in and got a lot of notoriety for, but received some praise based on his performance. He also appeared in the Ricky Gervais show Extras where he played himself in a role where he really really wants to break out from his childhood perception. But in December Boys, he plays a bit of a loner of sorts, though people seem to label the film for the sensationalist things Radcliffe does in the film. Look, Harry Potter smokes and gets it on with a girl, wow! But looking beyond perception, it’s a decent film.
December Boys was a film that was adapted from a Michael Noonan novel and directed by Rod Hardy, who has directed mainly television shows, most recently, Battlestar Galactica. But in the film, Radcliffe plays a guy known as Maps, along with his friends Misty (Lee Cormie, Darkness Falls), Sparks (Christian Byers) and Spit (James Fraser). The boys are slightly older orphans who have not been adopted by any prospective Australian families and are getting to the age where adoption is unlikely. They share the same relative birthday in December, and at the orphanage they live at, the nuns give them a chance to go to the beach and enjoy a holiday during Christmas, where two sets of families decide to welcome them. The younger family apparently has aspirations for adopting one of the children and Misty finds this out, and the boys are thrown in a competition of sorts. Maps finds Lucy (Theresa Palmer, The Grudge 2), who is staying there for a time, and shows Maps his first real look at the birds and the bees.
With the shock of Radcliffe doing grownup things aside, he manages to portray Maps as one who’s been presumably burned through the years by parents who look for the cutest and youngest, but when he’s 18 and he has to leave the orphanage, he’s a little bit lost, and he’s been sheltered in the life of the orphanage, which makes him slightly young, even as he’s trying to be the other boys’ guardian of sorts. As the boys’ personalities transform over the holiday, they seem to lose focus about what’s important among them, and that’s each other. It takes a crystallizing experience from one of the boys for the rest of them to realize this, and the film helps tell a competent story about retaining friends even in the worst circumstances.
There’s a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround option here, though it’s really a bit of a waste here, as the film is dialogue-driven and is all in the center speaker, with a couple of small deviations. Subwoofer use is seldom and panning was likewise.
Well there’s a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation for this little puppy and it looks pretty acceptable, the film’s color is reproduced well without a lot of bleeding or anything, though the color palette is a little muted.
Six deleted scenes that last about eight minutes in length, and for the most part they’re pretty worthless, save for a scene that shows one of the characters open up to his wife about what he does at the circus and that’s cool. And aside from the deleted stuff, there’s nothing else.
I think that if you’ve seen and like the Harry Potter films, and you’ve become more impressed by the work that Radcliffe has done over the last two of those films, to see Radcliffe in this change of pace helps give you a good idea of what he’s learned from all of the grownup prestigious British actors on set while being the boy wizard. It’s worth checking out at the very least to see this change of pace, although the film and disc could have used a little bit of polishing, so I’d give it a look before deciding to plunk cash down on it.