The Boys Are Back (12a)

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The Independent Culture

Scott Hicks, after the unpleasant belch of foodie-flick No Reservations, is here back on the life-affirming carousel he first rode with Shine.

It stars Clive Owen as Joe Warr, a sportswriter for an Australian newspaper who's left to raise his young son after the death of his wife from cancer. His laissez-faire approach to parenting and domesticity turns the house into a sty and eventually runs into trouble when the older son (George MacKay) from his first marriage comes out to stay. It's based on a memoir by The Independent journalist Simon Carr, though you'd never guess it, because nothing of that writer's wit or elegance has been allowed to colour the mawkish, self- approving tone of the adaptation by Allan Cubitt. The film has a situation but no drama, cutting between Joe's sublimated grief and a slightly nauseating sentimentality about kids and the "crazy" things they say.

Owen's voiceover is a cringeworthy accompaniment on the film's heavily signposted road to redemptive hugs and Joe's tentative romance with a divorcee. Bereavement is a valid starting-point, but this really gives the healing process a bad name.