Four orphans from the outback are sent on a sea-side vacation where they hear a rumour that a childless couple are seeking someone to adopt. This creates tension within the group.
The makers of December Boys pulled off a coup when they got Daniel Radcliffe to star in his first non-wizard role for this Australian coming of age tale.
Radcliffe plays Maps, an orphan, who, with his three orphan chums, gets to spend a month at a remote beach in the care of a kindly old couple. There, these 'December Boys" – so called because they were all born in that month – discover a young couple who are keen to adopt one of them. The firm friends become competitors for the love of these prospective parents.
Meanwhile, Maps, who’s older than the others, meets a beautiful teenage girl and experiences his first pangs of love and lust.
Set in the 1960s and adapted from Michael Noonan’s novel of the same name, December Boys would like to be Australia’s Stand By Me, or to perhaps revisit the glory days of The Year My Voice Broke. Sadly, it just doesn’t gel.
Radcliffe gives a fine, mature performance as the angsty Maps, and he shares some great scenes with Teresa Palmer, who’s set to be a big star in her own right. The other young actors are also good, and Jack Thompson and Kris McQuade give solid, touching performances.
These moments make you realise how good December Boys might have been. But it’s undermined by a script filled with sappy sentiment, clunky dialogue and intrusive voice over.
I just didn’t buy Victoria Hill’s accent, Sullivan Stapleton telling us the plot, or, most laughably, Ralph Coterill’s salty sea dog chasing down a monster fish.
Director Rod Hardy goes for magic realism – events viewed in the prism of memory – but the result is neither magic nor realistic, just cheesy and queasy. Like the boys it’s about, the film is just too desperate to be loved.
Its heart might be in the right place, but this only rates a soggy 2 stars.