Friday, April 5, 2019

Story can't match scenery in 'Storm Boy'

Based on Colin Thiele's children's book, Storm Boy, the movie of the same name, sinks under the weight of its obviousness. The movie is constructed around a story involving a retired corporate head (Geoffrey Rush) who arrives in Australia for a board meeting at which his son-in-law (Erik Thomson) wants to push through a deal with grave environmental consequences. As a result, Rush's Michael Kingsley faces the wrath of his environmentalist granddaughter (Morgana Davies). She wants him to vote "no." The story of corporate intrigue quickly gives way to the bulk of the tale: As he tries to explain himself to his granddaughter, Kingsley recounts his experiences as a boy who lived with his father (Jai Courtney) in a remote corner of Australia. Finn Little portrays Kingsley as a kid. Young Michael takes an interest in pelicans and, with encouragement from the movie’s wise indigenous man (Trevor Jamieson) decides to raise three baby pelicans whose mother has been shot by hunters. This small-scale environmental story -- conservationists vs. hunters -- sets the backdrop for a story in which Micheal raises the orphaned pelicans, developing a special relationship with the one that he names Mr. Percival. The beachfront scenery does more to advance the cause of nature than anything else. The movie obviously wants us to appreciate and respect natural life. But telling the story through the adult eyes of Rush's character creates a bogged-down structure in which the shifts from present to past and back again disrupt the movie's flow. And for a film that wants to celebrate nature, Storm Boy spends an awful lot of time showing the cute ways in which young Michael's pelicans begin behaving like pets.

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