Review of "The Boys Are back," now open.

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The Boys are Back
Director: Scott Hicks
With: Clive Owen, Nicholas McAnulty, Emma Booth, Laura Fraser, George MacKay

With antecedents in Kramer vs. Kramer and Ghost, this movie contrives to tug heartstrings and jerk tears.  Joe (Owen) is a sports writer in Australia whose wife has died leaving him with a 6-year-old (McAnulty).  Overwhelmed with his own grief and unsure how to cope with his son’s grief and rage, Joe takes the path of permissiveness, to the point of anarchy.  The boys behave like mom is away for a weekend, and the house is soon described as “hog heaven.”
But, as any classic anarchist will tell you, complete freedom requires complete responsibility.  And this Joe does not see.  Into the mix comes Joe’s moody teenage son from an earlier marriage, and complications ensue.
Rejecting or driving away female advice from a neighbor (Booth) and his wife’s mother, Joe accepts help only from the ghost of his wife.  And she trusts him too much.
Allegedly based on a true story, Boys shamelessly exploits our sympathy.  Owen is a wonderful actor, and several of the other actors do well with the material.  McAnulty is particularly appealing as the sad and confused little boy.
Hog heaven stops short of lapsing into Lord of the Flies, and everything seems to point toward happily-ever-after, but the changes in the characters are not obvious to the audience, at least not to me.  Why should we believe that everything will be all right?
If good acting and a 3-hanky cry are enough, by all means go see this.  There are worse movies out there.
C+
 

 

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