Directed by: Ron Hardy
Written by:Marc Rosenberg
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Lee Cormie, Christian Byers, James Fraser, Jack Thompson, Teresa Palmer
Released: September 20, 2007
Grade: B

Maps, Misty, Sparks and Spit are four boys who live at a Catholic orphanage in the Australian outback.  They are best friends who share the same birth month, December (and hence the film’s title).  They enjoy their life at the orphanage but deep down, they yearn to be adopted by a loving family.

As a special birthday treat, the nuns of the orphanage are sending the four boys on a holiday.  An elderly couple who live on a remote part of the South Australian coast have agreed to take care of them for a few weeks.  The boys couldn’t be more excited.

Over the course of the holidays, the boys learn a lot of life lessons and have much fun in the process.  Maps has his first experience with a girl.  Spark tries to catch a legendary fish which has eluded fisherman for years.  Misty tries to the win the affections of a young couple with the hope of being adopted.  They are provided with valuable memories which will stay with them their entire lives.

December Boys is based on the novel by Michael Noonan, first published in 1994.  The movie falls victim to a common problem with book adaptations – there’s too much material to condense into a two hour film.  As a result, the film feels fragmented and you don’t get to know the characters in any real depth.  There are also some strange sub-plots (one involving a legendary fish) that have no purpose in the film.  I left the cinema feeling that I’d only seen part of the story.

Lead actor Daniel Radcliffe is a smart 18-year-old.  He doesn’t want to be typecast as “the kid from Harry Potter” and is trying to broaden his resume.  In the past 12 months, he’s poked fun at himself in a hilarious episode of Extras (with Ricky Gervais) and featured in a West End revival of the Equus (which got much publicity because of his full frontal nudity).  December Boys won’t be regarded as Radcliffe’s greatest work (it’s actually not that big of a role) but it completes another stepping stone for him.

Writer Marc Rosenberg and director Ron Hardy have struggled with the material but the movie isn’t a total write off.  There are certain scenes that I really enjoyed.  The touching ending left a little moisture in my eyes (which doesn’t happen too often).  December Boys shows a lot of promise but it could have been much better.