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Featured DVD Review: The Boys are Back

January 25th, 2010

The Boys are Back - Buy from Amazon

The Boys are Back opened in limited release late in September of last year, which is a tad early for Awards Season, but there was some buzz going in, especially for the acting by Clive Owen and the two younger actors. However, while the overall reviews were very strong and the film opened with a reasonably good per theater average, it never really caught on with moviegoers and the award nominations never came to fruition. (George MacKay did earn a British Independent Film Awards nomination, but lost out to Katie Jarvis from Fish Tank.) Then again, judging a film by those standards might be too high and seeing it on the home market without the pressures of Awards Season and per theater averages might allow it to shine better.

Clive Owen stars as Joe Warr, a sports writer living in Australia with his second wife, Katy and his young son, Artie. As a sports writer, he travels a lot to different sporting events around the world, which has meant he hasn't spent a lot of time with his son. However, when his wife becomes ill and passes away, he is determined to spend more time with his sons, including Harry, from his first marriage, who comes to stay with him. But the demands of being a father are extremely difficult, especially for someone who hasn't had a lot of practice at it. He decides that parents are too quick to say no, so he's going to say yes. This works out about as well as one would imagine. In addition to balancing work and family life, he has hints of new romance, while dealing with fallout from his first failed marriage. It all works its way to the inevitable scene of parental redemption in the end, and while that might seem like a spoiler, it really isn't, as this is not a movie about an ending, but a movie about the journey.

The Boys are Back is a movie about a widower who has a difficult time dealing with the loss of his wife, a young boy dealing with the loss of his mother, and a teenage boy dealing with his sense of abandonment after his father left him all those years ago. This means it is filled with a lot of heavy emotional scenes, most of which work, but others feel overly manufactured. (This is especially true of the road trip to nowhere that Joe takes with Artie to connect with his son after years of being a part-time father.) Being an obvious tearjerker, the movie has a fine line to walk between being emotional and being emotionally manipulative, but it has difficulty here and not enough seems genuine enough to truly work. (Also, too much of the movie switching between scenes of Joe letting his kids do whatever they want and scenes where he complains they don't do what he says.)

There are some scenes that feature fantastic performances and it is worth checking out, but it doesn't live up to its potential.

Extras on the DVD are limited to a slideshow and a very short featurette on the two kids. The former runs 16 minutes and can be watched with music or with audio commentary by the director. The second option is absolutely the way to go. The second featurette is less than 2 minutes long and talks about the meeting between the two real life boys and the actors that portray them in the movie. It's interesting, but I wish it were longer. Two minutes is not enough to learn anything substantial.

Finally a technical note about the DVD. There are some issues with the audio in this movie, especially early on. Clive Owen's narration early in the movie is nearly impossible to hear over the score. (It was bad enough that I had to check to see if it was a problem with my home theater system, but after a bit of research I discovered I wasn't the only one to encounter this.) And throughout the movie there are times were the score seems too loud compared to the dialogue. Instead of constantly adjusting the volume, I just turned on the subtitles.

The Verdict

The Boys are Back is a movie that is right on the border between good and great. There are scenes so good that they by themselves make the movie worth watching, but there are also scenes that are cringe-worthy in how artificial they feel. The DVD only has a couple of extras, and issues with the sound, so while I can recommend checking out the movie, I would suggest starting with a rental.

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