The tale of a boy and his pelicans is back for a new generation and looks set to be mandatory Australian school viewing for years to come.
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Amidst a socio-political board decision that has split his family down the middle, retired businessman Mike Kingley (Geoffrey Rush) finds himself distracted by images from his past. To subdue his granddaughter’s outrage at her father’s conflicting political influence that looks set to bring harm to the Pilbara environment, he recounts to her his long-forgotten childhood growing up on an uninhabited South Australian coastline with his father (Jai Courtney). Back then, he was Storm Boy (Finn Little), given the title by indigenous local Fingerbone Bill (Trevor Jamieson) for rescuing and raising three orphaned baby pelicans.
You probably remember Storm Boy as the old novel and 70’s movie that were mandatory reading and/or viewing in every Australian classroom. Director Shawn Seet (Underbelly, Love Child) makes it as clear as possible from the get-go that his version is the MODERN and UPDATED take on a classic.
The lack of subtlety is forgivable, at least as this remains a story that all young Australians should experience. Given the dated nature of the original, Seet’s version is giving a new generation access to a tale that still resonates, even if a lack of substance is exposed this time around.
If there’s anything outstanding about Storm Boy 2k19, it’s the pelicans. Little behind-the-scenes information on how the cast and crew worked with these birds was available at the time of writing, but it seems highly believable that they could genuinely have been raised in this situation and environment. We see them actually growing from tiny, featherless babies to big-beaked beasts on screen and the bond they share with fresh-faced Finn Little (undoubtedly the next Levi Miller) is close, touching and quite astonishing.
Thankfully, these birds are kept largely grounded in reality – save for one or two instances of dodgy CGI in a stormy sea rescue that unfortunately couldn’t be avoided. These birds, along with a strong cast are what keep Storm Boy afloat. Recent controversy aside, Geoffrey Rush remains as watchable as ever and an inviting narrator to the tale. Jai Courtney feels much more at home here than he does in his usual Hollywood action-guy typecast, and Trevor Jamieson does the great David Gulpilil proud as Storm Boy’s Aboriginal guardian.
Elsewhere, there’s not much to grab onto. The present-day Pilbara mining conflict doesn’t go anywhere, given that the theme of Mike’s childhood story doesn’t mirror its contemporary quite as well as it should. There’s little depth, character development or emotional draw outside of Storm Boy’s main arc with his pelicans. Thankfully, that’s strong enough to make for an enjoyable time, and ensure that a classic Australian tale lives on for a new generation to watch.
Storm Boy is available in Australian cinemas from January 17
Image courtesy of Sony Pictures