" I’ll be monitoring your frequency "
— Zoe Saldana, Star Trek

MRQE Top Critic

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The world is changing around 8-year-old Damian (newcomer Alexander Nathan Etel). His mum died, and he and his dad and big brother moved to a new house in the British ‘burbs. That the country is switching from the pound to the euro is just an outward sign of the universe doing one of its many flops. Luckily, his imaginary friends — usually Catholic saints — help keep him in line.

Damian and Alex pile the money sky-high
Damian and Alex pile the money sky-high

When a bag of money falls from the sky into his cardboard fort, he’s not sure if it’s real or imaginary, but his older brother Anthony’s (Lewis Owen McGibbon) gape confirms it. With the help of his saints, Damian decides to use the money for good. He feeds pizza to the poor, stuffs money into the Mormon missionaries’ mail slot, and drops a generous roll into a donation box at school.

The last stunt brings him to the notice of the adults in his life, but when they learn just how much money he has, and just how anonymously he got it, they act more like 8-year-olds than saints.

“I thought it was from God. Who else has that kind of money?”
—Alexander Nathan Etel as Damian

Danny Boyle’s latest movie is charming and endearing. But instead of seeming too sweet, the movie has a spicy hipness to it. Boyle uses special effects and visual metaphors — like he did more darkly in Trainspotting — to make the world seem a more magical place and just to add some energy to the film. Much of the humor comes from Damian’s naivete, which keeps us from taking his quest for goodness too seriously or sentimentally.

There will be critics who love Millions, who say that it strikes just the right balance between edgy humor and genuine sweetness. But the movie introduces some two-dimensional villains, as though there couldn’t be a story without a “bad guy.” And the movie’s emotional climax and its final triumphant scene are so manipulative that they spill a lot of the goodwill Millions had built up. Without being too specific, let’s just say that you must believe the ending is the work of a starry-eyed 8-year-old in order for it to work. The minute you realize that it’s the work of a middle-aged screenwriter, you realize how shallow, stereotyped, and manipulative it is.

Whether you say the movie finds the perfect balance, or whether you think the scales are rigged, there is enough humor and good-natured energy in Millions to raise it above average. But you’ll like the movie better if you can see it as though you were 8.