My love affair with Taika Waititi movies began with Thor: Ragnarok. Yes, I’m a nerd and I’ve seen all the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it’s no secret that the third Thor outing was as great as it was because of the style that Waititi imparted. The New Zealander’s dry wit was something not many in the US had seen. Craving more of his work, I watched Hunt for the Wilderpeople and What We Do in the Shadows, both of which were hilarious yet simultaneously warm. So on a whim one night, I decided to partake in one of the director’s early works, named simply Boy.
The opening scenes are delightful and introduce us to the titular character, Boy (James Rolleston), and his world. He loves Michael Jackson. He lives with his grandmother, his brother Rocky (Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu), and several cousins. When his grandmother leaves to go to a funeral, she puts the 11-year-old in charge of the house and kids as he is the oldest. Everything seems fine until his estranged father, Alamein (Waititi), arrives unexpectedly saying he’s there to take care of them. For me, this is when the movie stopped being cute and funny.
In truth, Boy’s father has only come to dig up a bag of cash he buried in the yard several years prior. He is a deadbeat and complete asshole to all the children, including Boy, which makes his older son think that it’s okay for him to be an asshole, too. Both characters begin to alienate everyone around them while trying to show off how cool they are. The only person who seems to have any sense and can see through it all is the introverted Rocky. I wanted to sympathize for Boy because his situation sucked and he was only trying to make the best out of a bad situation, but how can you root for a character you don’t like? The small glimmer of promise came from Rocky who is so cute with his little drawings and thinking he has superpowers, I wish he would have been the main character.
There are a few messages to glean from this movie about neglecting your kids and being mean to them, how they can then replicate that in their own lives. The acting is great from the young upstarts in particular, and the overall production stands as proof that big budgets aren’t a necessity. However, when a movie leans into a goofy premise within the first 10 minutes, you tend to expect that it is more of a comedy. The fact that it doesn’t follow through on that will leave viewers feeling lost on how to react and wondering if the writer/director just lost steam. One might be willing to forgive Boy for being a genre-bender, but I tend to think it was just poorly written, especially considering this was only Waititi’s second movie. Thus, like all good love affairs, this one has ended.