This coming week is a big one for Taika Waititi films, as not only is his first blockbuster movie, Thor: Ragnarok seeing its Home Entertainment release, but his second directed feature, Boy is also being re-released. Boy originally debuted in 2010, and went on to become the highest grossing local film in the New Zealand Box Office (a title it has since been stripped of by Waititi’s later film, Hunt For The Wilderpeople).
The film follows Alamein, more commonly known as ‘Boy’, after his grandmother leaves him, his younger brother and cousins alone for the week to attend a funeral, and while she’s away, he gets a surprise visit from his zany, absentee, deadbeat dad, also called Alamein. What follows is a humorous little coming-of-age tale; wherein Alamein Jr. must glean whether his newly reappeared father is truly the man he remembers leaving all those years ago, and Alamein Sr. must struggle with the unfortunate realisation that he may have to be responsible for once in life and bond with his children.
Boy is an interesting watch for Taika Waititi fans as it picks up some recurring themes you’ll notice in his other movies, such as father issues and a great appreciation for Michael Jackson (one of his upcoming projects is a look at the life of Michael Jackson from the perspective of his monkey, Bubbles), and while it may not always tackle those issues to the same degree of poignancy as his later movies, it’s still a touching and fascinating watch nonetheless.
In fact, one of the best words to describe this film would be charming. The way it’s shot gives it an aged, rustic quality, that seems like it’s a blend of a pre-2000s movie and a well-executed student film; it’s unconventional and quirky, diverging from your standard crisp modern Hollywood movies in both aesthetic and story.
On top of that, it’s got a very strong cast, even though most of the stars are just kids. It’s hard to believe James Rolleston was cast just two days before shooting, because he fits into the role with ease and delivers every beat to perfection; whether it’s cracking jokes or tugging at your heart-strings.
The strongest player in the game, however, is director Taika Waititi himself, who plays the elder Alamein. Every scene he’s in is filled with all the hilarity, wit and weirdness that you’d expect of Waititi, and one of the biggest pitfalls of the film, for the first half anyway, is that any scene that he’s not in feels lacking. He has such a strong on-screen presence, as he dances between desperately trying to seem cool and raging about his past mistakes that it makes you doubt there’s any role he can’t master.
While it may not be as whole as Hunt For the Wilderpeople, as dazzling as Thor: Ragnarok or as hilarious as What We Do In The Shadows, Boy is still definitely a film worth watching. It takes a while to get going, but once it hits its stride, it becomes a touching, amusing and very heartfelt little indie spectacle that will appeal to Taika Waititi fans and the average moviegoer alike.
Dir: Taika Waititi
Scr: Taika Waititi
Cast: James Rolleston, Taika Waititi, Te Aho Eketone-Whitu, Moerangi Tihore, RickyLee Waipuka-Russell & Rachel House
Prd: Cliff Curtis, Ainsley Gardiner & Emanuel Michael
DOP: Adam Clark
Music: Lukasz Buda, Samuel Scott & Conrad Wedde
Country: New Zealand
Runtime: 87 Minutes
Boy is out on DVD and Digital Download on February 26th.