I've been meaning to review a lot of movies by director Danny Boyle on this blog. He's been making movies since 1994, and pretty much all of them have been good. The exception is his film The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, which tried to hard to be flashy. He's most well known for his films Trainspotting, 28 Days Later and Slumdog Millionaire. If you've seen those movies, you'd know they're pretty adult fare, which is why many of his fans were surprised in 2004 when he made the family friendly Christmas movie, Millions.
I suppose technically speaking, this isn't so much a Christmas movie as it is a movie set at Christmastime. The distributors clearly thought so, since in America this movie was released in the middle of the summer, but the story just feels a bit more relevant in the holiday season.
Millions is set in the UK in the month leading up to it's changeover from the pound to the euro as its currency. Two kids, Damian and Anthony come across a duffle bag full hundreds of thousands of pounds in their backyard, which they realize they have to do something about soon as it will be worthless when the UK switches to the euro. Anthony, the older brother, wants to spend it and invest it and Damian, the younger brother, wants to give it to the poor.
I should also mention that Damian is frequently visited by visions of saints who explain their personal histories to him.
Millions doesn't resort to the obvious cliche where everybody realizes it's better to give to others than to spend on yourself. It actually becomes a rather complex morality tale, but you should have guessed that it was going to be complex when I told you that it was a family movie that involved changing foreign monetary systems as it's central premise.
Both brothers agree to keep the money secret, though Anthony doesn't waste any time buying fun gadgets and bribing his friends. On the other hand Damian has a bit of difficulty giving away his share, since a grade school kid can't really go about handing out money without raising suspicion. It's not long before things get out of hand for him and everybody feels entitled to some portion of the wealth.
If you've seen any of Danny Boyle's other movies, you'll definitely recognize his directorial style in this one. There's plenty of slick editing and music choices all along the way. One of the most energetic scenes is when the boys learn where the money actually came from, which is set to Muse's song "Hysteria."
The movie is family friendly, but it's complexity may mean that parents watching it with their kids will find they have a lot of questions to answer afterward, probably the largest one being whether or not you'd keep the money for yourself or give it away.
Another heads up: this movie will probably put you in a philanthropic mood afterward. The movie never outright preaches that giving is good. Instead it makes an argument about what one really can do by using money wisely. Keep it to yourself and it's useless. Give it away thoughtlessly and people start expecting it. Somewhere in between, it argues, you can afford to help somebody out while enjoying yourself.
In keeping with that theme, the DVD contained an insert suggested making a donation to Heifer International if you felt inspired by the movie to do some giving. Even if the movie doesn't seem like your cup of tea, at least look into the charity.