Mighty Ape describes Boy as “a heartfelt and hilarious coming of age tale about heroes, magic and Michael Jackson.” The New Zealand Herald’s Peter Calder called it “Funny, heartbreaking, wonderful.” In reality Boy is a darkly honest look at a culture of neglect, abuse and hopelessness. It is neither funny or hilarious. Somber and depressing would be better words to describe this tale of a boy who is left to look after his younger brother and numerous (even younger) cousins in some small East Coast community. It’s set in 1984 presumably so that reviewers like Peter Calder can laugh at the way things used to be, but in reality, with the exception of Michael Jackson, Boy could have been set in 2010, and quite easily in any one of many Auckland suburbs.
Maybe it’s just that I was expecting a rip-roaring comedy, and the serious subject matter threw me, or maybe it because I used to live in a street where alcohol, violence and neglect where the way of life for some, but I just don’t see much to laugh about in a film that could be seen as a prequel to Once Were Warriors.
As a serious drama Boy unfortunately falls over with Taika Waititi’s attempts to inject humour, though he does cover some serious issues with a great degree of compassion.
Had I approached Boy with the understanding that it was, for the most part, going to be an honest look at the results of a neglected generation, stripped of opportunities and hope, then I may have found the space to laugh when Taika attempted to lighten the mood of the story from time to time, but because I had been suckered into believing it was a comedy, the end result was was one of somber reflection.
Approach Boy with an open heart, and he will get under your skin. Sit back ready for an honest look at society and you may find time to laugh. Taika Waititi’s story is one that needs to be viewed as a story that you need to listen to and not purely as a piece of entertaining fluff.
Reviewed by: Jonathan Read
Release date: September 3rd, 2010
Stars: Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu, Ei Kura Albert, Maakariini Butler, Manaia Callaghan, Tainui Callaghan, Ngapaki Emery, Rajvinder Eria, Darcy Ray Flavell-Hudson, Craig Hall, Pana Hema Taylor
Director: Waititi, Taika
Studio: Universal Pictures