Much of the pre-release talk for "December Boys" concerned one particular sequence in the film: "Harry Potter" star Daniel Radcliffe's first real love scene.
But the talk should have been about the film's photography, which spotlights the spectacular Western Australian coast, and which is the best thing about this conflicted but well-acted '60s-period drama based on Michael Noonan's beloved novel.
The title refers to four Australian orphans who have December birthdays: Misty (Lee Cormie), Maps (Radcliffe), Sparks (Christian Byers) and Spit (James Fraser). A benefactor has given their orphanage a generous donation, so the boys escape the desolate outback and head for the coast and a Christmas vacation.
Misty, Sparks and Spit are hoping for more than a brief reprieve from the orphanage, however. They're doing all they can to convince motorcycle stuntman Fearless Forte (Sullivan Stapleton) and his wife (Victoria Hill) to adopt them.
But Maps has other things on his mind. He's thoroughly entranced by Lucy (Teresa Palmer), an old-for-her-age teen who's interested in this newcomer as well.
There are a few bad-taste elements here (particularly the boys' preoccupation with sex), and a fumbled, unconvincing ending certainly doesn't end things on the right note. But it does boast some handsome scenic locations and a good young cast.
The maturing Radcliffe really steals the show, although Cormie ("Darkness Falls") is pretty likable, as is Russell Crowe look-alike Stapleton and veteran Australian actor Jack Thompson, though the latter doesn't get as much screen time as he deserves."December Boys" is rated PG-13 for crude sexual and bodily function humor and references, female and partial male nudity, scattered profanity, brief sexual contact and implied sex, some brief violence (brawling), and some substance use (prescription medicines, as well as underage smoking and drinking). Running time: 105 minutes.
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