While the reigning champ of quirk may be director Wes Anderson, you have to hand it to New Zealand for doing it long before Anderson ever came onto the scene. Peter Jackson’s Bad Taste and Dead Alive (or Braindead if you prefer), proves that Anderson’s eclectic tastes may have stemmed from the Kiwis themselves. Director/writer Taika Waititi seems set on giving Anderson a run for his money. We also have been getting a good dose of Kiwi humor thanks to the Flight of the Conchords duo Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement — Waititi even wrote and directed them in one episode of the show. Jemaine also made up half of the duo The Humourbeasts and co-starred in Waititi’s hilarious debut Eagle vs. Shark, but now Waititi is out to prove he can do it alone with his second film, Boy.
Boy actually refers to 11-year-old Alamein (James Rolleston), who lives in Waihu Bay, New Zealand, with his six-year-old brother Rocky (Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu), grandmother, and lots of cousins. When their grandmother heads to Wellington for a funeral, Boy is left in charge to take care of everyone. We learn that his mother died giving birth to Rocky and that all Boy wants is to meet Michael Jackson and his father Alamein (Waititi) to come home. When his father does show up, Boy thinks that it’s to make up for his absence over the years, but all Alamein really wants is to find a bag of money he buried in a field years ago. Boy decides to help Alamein find his money so that they can be escape Waihu Bay and spend the rest of their days riding dolphins, drinking cocktails, and wearing tuxedos. But Boy is about to find out that sometimes it takes a boy to step up and be a man.
The jokes fly fast and furious with some of the funniest one-liners heard outside a Judd Apatow production. Rolleston really steps up to his role, especially considering he was cast three days before filming started. Eketone-Whitu delivers hilarious awkwardness to Rocky and Waititi himself proves perfectly adept at delivering quips while making you feel sorry for a man stuck in arrested development. The conversations with Alamein talking to his mom on the phone are pricelessly authentic. I’m almost glad I didn’t catch Boy when it premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival because it would have made the wait to see it again seem way too long. This summer sure seems packed with coming-of-age dramedies with The Kings of Summer and The Way, Way Back playing in theaters, but with Boy finally being released on video, it should make this one even easier to squeeze into anyone’s busy summer schedule.
The video quality for Boy is presented by Kino Lorber framed in a 1.85:1 ratio in full 1080p. While Kino’s Redemption titles are hit-and-miss affairs, if it weren’t for noise creeping into virtually any scene happening at night, we could have had a five star review. Unfortunately, that noise also washes out some of the clarity making the image appear brighter than it should. When it comes to the day scenes however, clarity is superb with sharpness granting life to every crashing wave, bending tree, and marijuana plants blowing in the wind. Waihu Bay appears to be one of the most beautiful places you’ve never heard of and cinematographer Adam Clark captures it in all its glory. The audio contains two tracks, a 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. While obviously a film of small origins, the dialogue is crystal clear even though at times it comes close to being swallowed up by the music. The track does offer exceptional directionality and even some booming LFE when it needs to. It probably sounds way better than it should.
Special features on Boy are minimal but a lot of fun. There’s a 41 minute featurette, “Interviews & B-Roll Footage,” which is exactly what it sounds like. Waititi brings us a rather personal look into the making of Boy, covering everything from the casting to why he shot the film in Waihu Bay. Boy feels like a rather personal film and it is. The film also features a lot of Waititi’s family members, and the house they live in is the one he grew up in. Aside from the theatrical trailer, the only other feature is a great one; Waititi’s Academy Award nominated short film from 2004: Two Cars, One Night. Here we find Romeo (Rangi Ngamoki) and Ed (Te Ahiwaru Ngamoki-Richards) in one car, Polly (Hutini Waikato) in the other. Ed just wants to read his book, while Romeo pesters Polly. At first the two seems hellbent on making each other miserable, but a close friendship reigns supreme in a quick 11 minutes.
With Boy, Waititi has brought us a hilarious and heartfelt slice-of-life in a way that’s new and refreshing. Boy is not something you see every day, but it’s definitely worth checking out.
Cover art and photos courtesy Kino Lorber