‘December Boys’ offers engaging predictability

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Thursday, September 27, 2007 5:21pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

It’s otherwise a little Australian film, but “December Boys” will garner a measure of interest beyond the usual art house crowd, at least with fans of a certain wizard.

Yes, Daniel Radcliffe, the leading man of the “Harry Potter” movies, takes his first nonmagical outing in this modest coming-of-age drama. And Radcliffe’s own participation in it is so modest, he’s not even the center of the film.

“December Boys” is set in Australia in the late 1960s. Four lads from an orphanage (all share December birthdays) are chosen for a monthlong Christmas holiday by the seashore. They stay with a religious couple, but they also get to know the other folks who live around the cove.

Radcliffe plays the oldest of the group, and thanks to a forward local lass (Teresa Palmer) he gets his first education in the ways of love. But the story is real­ly told from the perspective of a bespectacled boy nicknamed Misty (Lee Cormie), who becomes convinced that an exciting young couple is going to adopt him.

The film, directed by Rod Hardy from a novel by Michael Noonan, has an attractive, sun-washed air about it. It’s so laid-back that even the big dramatic events don’t seem especially earth-shaking, but this is one of the pleasures of the movie, in a way.

It helps that the locations are so gorgeous — the main cove is a place in South Australia called Kangaroo Island, and it truly looks heavenly.

Because of all that, it’s not difficult to forgive the general lack of originality, or the predictable characters. The movie is just so darned nice to be around, it survives its problems.

A few things happen in the last 10 minutes or so that were puzzling, especially a child’s decision that seems contradictory. But even that didn’t quite break the summertime spell. (December being summertime Down Under, that is.)

And Harry Potter? Well, Radcliffe doesn’t exactly shine, although his character is meant to be low-key and reserved. He’ll need a bigger test to show his stuff — but first, there are a couple of those pesky boy-wizard movies to sort out.

Daniel Radcliffe, Teresa Palmer and the young orphans in “December Boys.”

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