Fans of Cinema Paradiso will probably go for this nostalgic fantasy about a gullible, towheaded youth (Jakob Salvati, calling to mind Ralphie from A Christmas Story) who waits uneasily for his beloved father to return from World War II and innocently befriends a harassed Japanese-American man in his small California town. Writer-director Alejandro Monteverde is from Mexico, which might excuse his frequent anachronisms both cultural (the theater marquees advertise classic movies released years earlier) and social (the characters all wear period hats and caps, but wear them indoors). Once Monteverde arrives at the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, which the boy thinks he's conjured up through his own magical powers, the movie's awkward mix of cute comedy and unfelt tragedy begins to congeal into pure yuck. Emily Watson plays the boy's mother and Tom Wilkinson turns up as a gentle parish priest, so this must have looked better on paper than it does onscreen. With Ben Chaplin and Kevin James.
By J.R. Jones