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There is wisdom to be found in living. Even when the life we have lived is full of pain and heartbreak there is still knowledge to be gained. Never has this been more blatant in film than with the new Danny Boyle directed movie, Slumdog Millionaire. As in his past projects, Boyle gets us to think about life, love and cold hard cash. But he does it in a way that is harsh, eye opening and beautiful. Not too many film makers can pull those three elements off and have them all dance together to the same tune.

Based in India it is the story of Jamal Malik (Dev Patel), a young man in his late teens who goes on the very popular Hindi version of the TV game show, “Who Wants to be A Millionaire?”. Everyone watching and producing the show can not figure out how this impoverished lad could possibly know the answers to the questions he is asked. As we learn more about Jamal’s life and experiences we get a better understanding of how knowledge is gained. Told in flashback sequences we see the journey of a young boy who did not allow the hand he was dealt to keep him from finding all he desired.

India is the perfect backdrop for a story like this one. The sights, sounds, colors, people, religion and social classes allow for depth of plot and uniqueness of characters. Boyle does a splendid job of capturing these elements and using them to convey the simple root of the message. This could have been a very dark and heavy film but he allows moments of humor and culture to balance it out. This way we do not lose the poignancy but at the same time find some entertainment there as well. This isn’t a documentary. It is movie. So there needs to be that element of fantasy. You get that without sacrificing the harsh realities of Jamal’s culture.

Sometimes we as Americans forget the horrors that many kids and adults face in countries around the world. Too often we get comfortable in our land of the free, home of the brave chairs and forget how truly lucky we are. Also films like this make us, or should anyway, step back and look at our own lives and circumstances. Are we letting them get the best of us or are we finding the best in them? It is easy to get mad and blame others for our lives. Allowing the negative to excuse us from greatness. But in the end that is truly not living. It is not even existing. But once we find that which is most important, and do all we can to obtain it, hell or high water, we find there is hope in the journey and a prize at the end.

Slumdog Millionaire is rated R for some violence, disturbing images and language. I think the theme and context would be a little too strong for your younger family members. This movie deals with the harsh realities of the orphans in India and the things they are forced to do. I think those 15 and up could get something from this with the right conversation afterwards. It is a must see for anyone who loves a great story of human achievement and appreciates expert film making. I give it 4 out of 5 multiple choice questions. Fast, visual, contemplative and humorous; Slumdog has the right elements and uses them to its advantage.

Matt Mungle (matt@mungleshow.com) (11/24/08)

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Review copyright 2008 Mungleshow Productions. Used by Permission.

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