INTERACTIVE (Rate the Review)

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Cinema Signal: Not quite a green light but has elements of strong appeal for a limited audience.

Michael Jackson:
The Interviews
Vol. 2 (2009)
. "The Boys Are Back"
It's the getting them there that counts.

Clive Owen represents, to me, the kind of charismatic force that destines an actor for greatness, no matter what his country of origin or modest his early credits. His emergence in North American markets came about with "Croupier" in 1998 which, interestingly, contains the kind of material that his intense power is so well adapted to. His craggy face and the level of intensity that he rises to are so associated with male dynamism, in fact, that one may be surprised by his appearance in a softie single-parent drama and, indeed, you'd have to go back to 2000's "Greenfingers" to see the side of him that not only made this daddy role attractive to him but inspired him to executive produce it as well, perhaps as a means to pull sufficient financing together.

Joe Warr (Owen) was the local South Australia newspaper's top sports writer until the grief surrounding the tragic loss of his wife and the sudden need to assume the responsibilities of raising his rambunctuous 6-year old boy Artie (Nicholas McAnulty) caused him to take time off. Though it silenced his dynamic pen for a period, he's now fitting in assignments to cover events far and wide, finding a temporary caregiver in Laura (Emma Booth), a fellow-single parent who is more interested in him than anything he's pushing for.

Joe has also assumed a rather macho style of running the place, and his richly commodious two-story home has become a dumping ground. What's clear, is his deep love for Artie and, when his older son Harry (George MacKay) comes for a rare visit from his home with Joe's first wife in London, the affection he wants to develop between them is blunted by rather hard feelings George retains for Joe's leaving him years before.

Helping him to work it out is his dead wife Katy (Laura Fraser) appearing as a prescient manifestation of his thoughts to advise him along the way. Not helping is her mother Barbara (Julia Blake), a grandparent who would just love to take over the raising of Artie. Joe's not buying any part of her devices to obtain control over his boy. About the most impassioned line in the movie is when Joe tells her that Artie is no substitute for her dead daughter.

Titles tell us that it's based on a real story but departures from reality thread their way throughout the screenplay in order to keep the drama alive. The father that Owen portrays is so permissive--even to the teenage mob of partying monsters who demolish his house--that it rankles. Not that you don't want to see everything come out all right, but it shows how little there is to fill the admiration department.

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  • The Boys Are Back: A photographic journey--with optional commentary by director Scott Hicks.
  • A Father and Two Sons, On Set
  • Romantics will take it all in without much question, responding to director Scott Hicks and Allan Cubitt's adaptation of Simon Carr's novel "The Boys Are Back in Town" as it was intended. For them, this subject matter needs no dramatic assist. It's big on the emotional factor. For me, this family's period of adjustment may tug on the heart a bit but fails, save for Owen's holding power, to form a theatrical grip out of all that sympathy. As for the film's title, well, it doesn't really work.

    A very nice try that Owen need not apologize for, as hokey and ofttimes boring as the film gets. It goes down for the discerning filmgoer as an exposure of another rich vein in a very decent film star's personal makeup and that's not an altogether bad thing for this Australian production that affords us a glimpse of the pro talent there.

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                                          ~~  Jules Brenner  

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    Clive Owen and his boys.
    It's the getting them there that counts.

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