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Tue March 29, 2005
A tribute to a director who makes children interesting and wise and movies for everyone.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
"Radix malorum cupiditas est."
("The root of evil is greed.") The Pardoner's Tale
Cash virtually falling from the sky has been a staple of moralized tales at least from Chaucer, whose Pardoner's Tale tells of men looking for wealth only to find death. So too for John Huston's Treasure of Sierra Madre, the best of the lot for sheer power of greed backed up with uncommonly good acting by Humphrey Bogart and Walter Huston. A few years ago the Burton sisters directed Manna from Heaven using older actors such as Cloris Leachman and Shirley Jones to tell of dollars from God, elderly greed, and a nun with other ideas. More recently, money again from the sky fatally changes three ordinary men in Sam Raimi's A Simple Plan.
Along comes Millions, a delightful British entry with a new twist: Kids find the money, argue about the best way to spend it, and finally get the help of adults to dispose of it. Unlike most greedy types, who eventually suffer the consequences through lame goddess Nemesis, the two brothers are not at the larcenous stage. They simply have different philosophies: Damian wants to give it to the poor; his older brother, Anthony, prefers fiscal responsibility, which does not feature giving away the money. Along the way they learn about the responsibility that sticks inextricably to every note, which they must cash in quickly before the pound is changed into the euro.
Danny Boyle's eclectic imagination has Alex obsessed with the saints, who appear to him regularly in visions to talk candidly about the world as they see it and saw it. Memorable is Clare of Assisi, who smokes a cigarette and claims to be the patron saint of television. Saint Nicholas helps Damian deliver cash to needy Mormons, who turn around immediately and buy a foot massager and digital TV. It's refreshing to see the saints almost human in their little scenes that illuminate the realistic side of religious fanaticism. But it is that devotion that lets Damian fight the forces of greed and a forceful brother, not to mention the crooks and citizens now fully engaged in extracting the cash from the blameless kids.
Boyle's hyperactive camera ushers in some magic realism at the beginning with a house building itself in seconds and later a rocket launch to an exotic paradise. No one ever accused Boyle of being unimaginative or reverent. The ornery Millions is a tribute to a director who makes children interesting and wise and movies for everyone.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com.