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Review: New-agey drama ‘Milton’s Secret’ can’t transcend earthly despair

The theme of enlightenment has seldom come across as leaden as it is in “Milton’s Secret,” a dull drama based on the children’s novel of the same name by spiritual author Eckhart Tolle.

Set in some sort of parallel universe where virtually all of the characters speak in politely hushed tones usually reserved for libraries, the Canadian production is seen through the eyes of 12-year-old Milton Adams (William Ainscough), the type of world-weary wimpy kid who’s no stranger to coming-of-age scenarios.

Living in a constant state of fear perpetuated by the local bully (Percy Hynes White) and the mounting tensions between his stressed-out, cash-strapped parents (Mia Kirshner and David Sutcliffe), Milton could use a place to stash his angst.

Enter Grandpa Howard (Donald Sutherland), an aging hippie and Zen-centered Zumba enthusiast who teaches Milton how to become one with the moment.

This type of material would appear to cry out for a little counter-balancing satire, but director and co-writer Barnet Bain adheres to a wispy reverence and a plodding pace that proceed to suck all the life out of every scene.

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Managing to cut through the tired character clichés, a playful Sutherland, his blue eyes all a-twinkle, and young Ainscough have a sweet rapport, but it can’t lift the film out of its malaise.

Even for something preaching spiritual tranquility, “Milton’s Secret” exhibits the barest trace of a pulse.

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‘Milton’s Secret’

MPAA rating: PG, for thematic elements involving bullying and adolescent issues, and for brief language

Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes

Playing: Arena Cinelounge at the Montalban Theatre, Hollywood; also on VOD

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