After their mother's death, nine year-old Damian (Etel) and seven year-old Anthony (McGibbon) move house, but the kids' adjustment is interrupted when they find a duffel bag containing a quarter of a million pounds.
Danny Boyle's career has been a distinctly up-and-down affair. In the early '90s, with Shallow Grave and Trainspotting, he was hailed as (yet another) 'saviour of the British film industry'. But since then there's been a series of less triumphant outings: A Life Less Ordinary was an over-egged attempt at romantic comedy (which brought to mind Francis Ford Coppola's similarly top-heavy One From The Heart); The Beach was misconceived and miscast, while Alien Love Triangle continues to be sat on by Harvey Weinstein; a fate barely worth contemplating.
But the one thing it hasn't been is predictable. With Millions he rings the changes again, moving from the gooey nihilism of 28 Days Later to a shamelessly heartwarming family pic. In doing so, he delivers his most unalloyed success since Trainspotting.
Millions, like all kid-powered movies, stands or falls in the first place on the performances of its child actors, and Alex Etel and Lewis McGibbon both delight. McGibbon plays a moderately cynical nine year-old whose expertise in emotional manipulation is typified by his wail of, "Our mam's dead!" in order to appropriate chocolate biscuits from relatives, while Etel - a ridiculously, utterly unselfconsciously sweet-natured child - dazzles as Damian, a boy whose essential goodness leads him to use the money to ôhelp the poorö, a group he at one point identifies as a bunch of crusties whom he treats to a feast in Pizza Hut.
Frank Cottrell Boyce's deft screenplay manages to undercut the risky levels of religiosity with sparkily surreal wit ù saints pop by to sit in DamianÆs cardboard castle for a smoke and to shoot the breeze ù while Boyle banishes the Children's Film Foundation feel that this could have had with his usual sophistication: a heist sequence which crosscuts between a train robbery and the same events acted out by a group of ten year-olds with Tonka Toys is a standout, while the opening titles have the boys' new house springing up in real-time around them.
Irresistible performances from the two boys makes Millions that rare thing, a sweet-natured triumph of a family film without a hint of mawkishness.