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Here's the verdict on whether the new Storm Boy movie is as good as the original.

Remaking a classic story can be both a blessing and a curse.

In one instance, it gifts your project with an enticing layer of curiosity as audiences flock to see how their favourite story has been revamped and reimagined. On the flip side, however, it also means that your new offering can rarely be seen as a triumph in its own right.

This is a conundrum facing the new Australian movie Storm Boy, which drops into cinemas this week.

The movie is based on Colin Thiele’s classic children’s book of the same name and is a reimagining of the beloved 1976 movie, facts that ensure this enduring Aussie story has a strong and devoted fan base already in place.

As with past iterations of the story, 2019’s Storm Boy slips back and forth between the past and present life of Mike Kingley, played as a child by Finn Little and as an adult by Geoffrey Rush.

The present day scenes of the film are set within downtown Adelaide where Rush’s version of Michael Kingley, now a retired and weary businessman, is waiting for his company to vote on a proposal to lease land in Western Australia to a mining company.

His son-in-law is aggressively trying to push the vote through but his teenage granddaughter is opposed to it, and threatens to hold Michael accountable for the fate of the land.

And so the movie flips back in time to Michael’s childhood as he tells his granddaughter about his life as a child living in an isolated beachside shack on the edge of Coorong National Park, 100 miles southeast of Adelaide.

His father, “Hideaway Tom” (played by Jai Courtney), has retreated from the world after suffering a terrible personal tragedy. He spends his days alone on the water fishing and working, leaving Michael to wander the shoreline alone.

It is during one of Michael’s long days of isolation by the waterways that he comes across three newborn pelican chicks who have been left alone in their nest to die after their mother was killed by poachers. It is during the rescue of the chicks that Michael becomes friends with Fingerbone Bill (played by Trevor Jamieson), an Aboriginal man who has also been forced to live apart from his people.

Finn Little in Storm Boy with Mr Percival. Source: Sony.
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Against all odds, Michael and Bill manage to keep the baby pelicans alive, and the birds, now named Mr Proud, Mr Ponder and Mr Percival, become beloved (and very naughty) members of the household.

It is within the dreamy, exquisitely shot flashback sequences of young Michael raising his pelicans and slowly rebuilding his relationship with his broken father that Storm Boy really shines. These are the moments in the film where the true heart and essence of this enduring tale, first found within the pages of the book and then in the original movie, are at their strongest.

Where Storm Boy falls down as a movie, however, is in the present day scenes and not just because of the cloud that is now hanging over actor Geoffrey Rush following allegations of sexual misconduct (which he denies).

These scenes drag on for much too long, are packed with so much exposition that they flood the audience with useless facts and feel very uneven compared to the scenes from Michael's past.

I can't help but feel that the magic of Storm Boy has been slightly stripped away here, thanks to how the modern day component of the story was handled. The film adds in a more extensive and timely nod to environmentalism than we have seen in the past, but it's not enough to save the storyline.

And yet, despite this misstep, Storm Boy is still a beautiful addition to the catalogue of Australian film and one that old and new fans of the story alike should see in full force on the big screen.

Just make sure you have at least six boxes of tissues on hand for the film's final scenes - I knew what was coming and it still packed a punch. The final strains of the movie's lovely score were almost drowned out by the intense sobs of the audience around me.

Just be warned.

Storm Boy will play in cinemas Australia-wide from Thursday, January 17. It is rated PG.

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