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DVD Reviews: Millions and The Motorcycle Diaries

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The first question I suspect you are having, as you read this headline, is what the heck is the connection between these two movies? And, yes, a commonality does exist.

Millions is about a British boy who finds 265,000 pounds and has to decide what to do with it.

The Motorcycle Diaries is based on the book by Argentine-born Ernesto Guevara de la Serna – better known as Che Guevara.

In 1951 Guevara, 23, and his good friend Alberto Granado, 29, a biochemist, took a trip across South America.

Guevara, a Marxist revolutionary and Cuban guerilla leader, died Oct. 9, 1967, almost exactly one year before I was born.

So what can these two movies possibly have in common?

The answer: Both are morality tales of a sort.

Both involve two main characters who are young men – literally brothers in the case of Millions and two best friends in The Motorcycle Diaries.

More importantly, money not only plays a key role in both movies but leads to arguments between the two main male characters in each movie.

In Millions, Damian, 7, wants to give the money to the needy. Anthony, 9, thinks the money should be spent on extravagances.

While Damian buys pizza one day for everyone claiming to be poor, Anthony wants to buy expensive, cool products for himself.

His older brother can be seen as representing the average materialistic person.

I would hope most people would want to use the money to help others, even if they do not have as clear a moral compass as the younger brother.

But the cynic in me thinks most people would use the money to buy cars, stereos and other treats for themselves.

When the brothers realize the money is loot from a brilliant robbery, the decisions of the two become still more difficult: Should they tell their dad about the money? Should they turn the money in? And what should they do about a man who has been following and watching them, probably looking to take their money?

The situation prompts the best line in the movie, from Anthony:
“It isn’t the money’s fault it got stolen.”

Throughout the movie Damian is visited by saints, who encourage him to continue using the money for good causes.

Overall, the movie, directed by Danny Boyle, is a charming, fascinating, visually colorful tale.

In The Motorcycle Diaries, money plays a more minor role but can be seen as symbolizing the difference between the two men. While both are kind-hearted, Guevara is more selfless.

Granado wants Guevara to use his money for personal extravagances. Guevara, though, resists Granado’s pushing, ultimately using it to help others needier.

During the trip both men make a fascinating, inspiring journey together, not just geographically but of conscience as well.

As they travel they meet people truly suffering due to the government, private companies and other causes.

During the trip Guevara becomes increasingly focused on helping others, especially the poor and the sick, often at his own peril.

For example, Guevara gives his asthma medicine to a sick woman, leading to problems when he has an asthma attack.

So was his act of charity short-sighted or selfless or both?

That is just a sample of the many questions the movie prompts in viewers, especially as the men reach their intended final destination: A leper colony.

While nuns insist everyone wears gloves when working with the lepers, these two reject that rule. What seemed like insubordination to the head nun, meant something much different to the lepers who are shocked, then moved, that non-lepers are actually touching them.

This movie has its share of detractors but the critics’ beef is usually not with the film itself but rather what the movie leaves out.

Through the course of the movie the viewer watches Guevara change from a medical student to the communist leader who will become so famous that you can still see his image on shirts, hats and buttons, often worn by people born long after he died.

It is well and good that Guevara rejects a system where a person’s lifestyle is tied to how much money they have, these critics say. But the movie does not explore those injured and killed as Guevara, Castro and others fight for change.

However, that all came later in Guevera’s life and the movie ends earlier than that.

I think it more appropriate to review what is included rather than what is excluded. And what there is here is a fascinating portrayal of a man’s political evolution.

Both movies are good thought-provoking films that can spark good discussions. I used both movies for that exact purpose.

Both movies also have good extras on the dvds, including interviews with the lead actors.

Check them out and let me know your thoughts on them.

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About Scott Butki

Scott Butki was a newspaper reporter for more than 10 years before making a career change into education... then into special education. He has been doing special education work for about five years He lives in Austin. He reads at least 50 books a year and has about 15 author interviews each year and, yes, unlike tv hosts he actually reads each one. He is an in-house media critic, a recovering Tetris addict and a proud uncle. He has written articles on practically all topics from zoos to apples and almost everything in between.
  • http://blogcritics.org Joanie

    Che was kind-hearted and selfless? That’s horribly frightening, Scott. Only in movies, dear. Only in movies.

  • Scott Butki

    Well, I think the problem is the movie – and I assume the book – stopped before he got into violence. So yes when he was working with lepers and giving his only medicine to others he seemed kind hearted and selfless.
    When he had people killed later in life… not so much.