The New Zealand-set coming-of-age quirkfest “Boy” proves as slight as its minimalist title. Like the film’s lead character, a scrappy 11-year-old everyone calls simply Boy (the wonderfully expressive James Rolleston), there’s potential here. But writer-director and co-star Taika Waititi (“Eagle vs Shark”) never builds much momentum for his largely uneventful if sometimes inventive story.
For Boy, life in his Maori beach town consists of watching over a brood of young cousins with his kindly grandma, pining for eye-catching but dismissive classmate Chardonnay, hanging with his buddies, and bossing around his little brother, Rocky (Te Aho Eketone-Whitu, charming). Enter Boy and Rocky’s estranged, ex-con father, Alamein (Waititi), a would-be outlaw and drug enthusiast who’s returned home less to see his motherless children (his wife died giving birth to Rocky) than to dig up some imprecisely buried cash.
Boy quickly becomes smitten with his faux-cool man-child of a dad. But as we can guess the minute we lay eyes on the erratic Alamein, disenchantment is assured.
Waititi has time-capsule fun (the film takes place in 1984) reviving Michael Jackson mania and recalling such era touchstones as “E.T.” and “The Incredible Hulk.” Whimsical bits of animation and fantasy are also peppered throughout. What’s missing is the narrative focus to keep it all percolating -- and the viewer invested.
“Boy.” No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 24 minutes. At Laemmle’s Monica 4-Plex, Santa Monica; Laemmle’s Playhouse 7, Pasadena.
Caught in a brewing war
There’s nothing particularly subtle about the political observations in “Cirkus Columbia,” but that’s as it should be in this dark comedy set in 1991 Bosnia-Herzegovina, on the blinkered brink of war. If anything, the latest feature from Danis Tanovic (“No Man’s Land”) could have benefited from a more defined absurdist edge. Yet despite its wobbly tone and stumbles into implausible melodrama, the film succeeds as a study of realignments among friends and family, a gently cracked mirror held up to the insanity that would soon devastate the region.
After 20 years in Germany, Divka (weary-eyed Miki Manojlovic of “Irina Palm”) makes an ostentatious return to his newly post-communist village. He arrives in a humongous Mercedes, with deutsche marks to burn, a lovely young fiancee (Jelena Stupljanin) and a beloved cat who’s his favorite conversational partner. The cat’s disappearance provides new opportunity for him to show off his wealth, in the form of a proffered reward, but not before he has his long-suffering wife (Mira Furlan) and draft-age son (Boris Ler) evicted from the family home.
The jabs at capitalism hit the mark. Divka takes possession of the house and, without skipping a beat, helps himself to the dinner that’s simmering on the stove. Glimpses of rising nationalism register in a lower, more ominous key: A military officer dons the Serbian insignia, villagers murmur about Croatia’s secession. Hope and dread arise simultaneously, if not with equal urgency; for many of the characters, the upheaval that awaits them is beyond imagining.
“Cirkus Columbia.” No MPAA rating; in Bosnian with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hours, 53 minutes. At Laemmle’s Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills.
Creating a joyous ‘Noise’
The directors of the delightful 2001 short film “Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers,” which showcases the noncutesy melodic possibilities of squeak toys, toothbrushes and vacuum cleaners, successfully build upon the premise in “Sound of Noise.”
Spoofing police procedurals while bowing deeply to John Cage, the cheeky feature pits a music-loathing yet sympathetic detective against a group of anarchist percussionists. In lesser hands, the mash-up might have been nothing more than an act of cinematic contortion. But filmmakers Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjarne Nilsson and their engaging cast pull off the feat with no strain and a surprising amount of heart.
At the center of the simple story (written by Simonsson and Jim Birmant) is tone-deaf anti-terrorist cop Amadeus (Bengt Nilsson), who, in a cruel twist of fate, is the sibling of a famous conductor. The ticking bomb that introduces Amadeus to the case of the guerrilla drummers turns out to be a metronome, much to his profound dismay.
That puts him on the trail of conceptual composer Magnus (Magnus Borjeson), academy reject Sanna (Sanna Persson Halapi) and their band of outsiders. In four locations, the most far-fetched being a hospital, they’re staging “Music for One City and Six Drummers,” the ultimate expression of their manifesto against musical mediocrity.
Without pounding home its avant-garde cred, this fresh ode to found sound and the music of silence casts an amused gaze at careerism, classical-music reverence and notions of artistic purity and ends with a pitch-perfect change of tune.
“Sound of Noise.” MPAA rating: R for language and some brief nudity; in Swedish with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hours, 42 minutes. At the Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre, Los Angeles.