What better friend can a dying boy have than a mysterious neighbor who gives him a really cool ring, which he throws away at the first opportunity?
This movie had great potential. David Bowie exists only in flashback as an avuncular sage who spouts chestnuts about living and dying, and for all that I wish that his screen time had been longer. Certainly his is the most interesting character in this collection of cliches, and the casting was well done in his case.
My main problem with this movie is that it could have been a fantastic story, except it pulls out every cheap sentimental stop along the way. The story could have been told in many ways other than this one, with its collection of children that are either dying or obnoxious or both, but I suppose that it's just not as interesting or story-worthy when an adult is terminally ill. Why couldn't any other member of the community that supposedly loved and mourned Mr. Rice have been the recipient of his secret?
The treasure hunt itself is a good device, and one of the best parts of the movie, as are Owen's troubling nightmares and images of death. I would like to have seen more of this. I would like to have learned more about Mr. Rice's life...and death. Instead, we're left with frustrating glimpses of an interesting character, and no real clue why he chose this boy as his best friend. This is a movie that tries too hard to be too many things (in some places too strongly reminiscent of "Stand By Me"), and in the end really leads the viewer nowhere we haven't been before.
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