Because the title character of "Boy" is so utterly charming, and the setting of writer-director Taika Waititi's offbeat memory play so fascinating, it's a shame that the movie isn't more engaging.
It's 1984 on the eastern shore of New Zealand, where 11-year-old Boy (winningly played by James Rolleston) cares for his 6-year-old brother Rocky (Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu) and their young cousins while Grandma is out of town. Boy has two heroes in the world: Michael Jackson, whose dance moves he tries to emulate, and his absent father, Alamein (played by Waititi), who returns unexpectedly with two prison pals to dig up a treasure buried in a nearby field.
Waititi, whose work here and in his 2005 comedy "Eagle vs. Shark" is reminiscent of Utah's Jared Hess ("Napoleon Dynamite"), brings a goofy do-it-yourself sensibility and an ear for regional quirkiness to the film (a holdover from the 2010 Sundance Film Festival).
But the story is slight and too familiar, and can't be propped up by local color and amateur "Thriller" re-creations alone.
Opens Friday, April 6, at the Tower Theatre; not rated, but probably PG-13 for language and mild violence; 84 minutes. For more movie reviews, visit nowsaltlake.com/movies.