December Boys: Harry Potter Fans Won’t Hold It Against Daniel Radcliffe

If Daniel Radcliffe is hoping for an acting life after Harry Potter, he might want to be choosier than this cloying little Australian number about four outback orphan pals with horrid names like Maps and Misty, whose anxieties about outgrowing their chances for adoption bubble over during a summer vacation on the picturesque coast. There, a more colorful life awaits the lads (one of whom, now grown old, supplies the jovial voice-over along with a score made of pure syrup) in the form of a photogenic circus: a blond teenage siren, a big fish called Henry, and a fortuitously childless couple who can adopt only one of the boys. Dilemma! Hampered by a silly gait that recalls Steve Carell's daft lope in Little Miss Sunshine and an emotional range that runs from abject to abject, Radcliffe gives by far the movie's weakest performance as the depressive Maps. But what's most alienating about this alternately mawkish and ingratiating dramedy, directed by Rod Hardy from a script by Marc Rosenberg, is the cheap shots it casually fires at institutional Catholicism while throwing its weight behind wacky visions of the Virgin Mary. It's enough to make anyone run for the priesthood, and somebody does.

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