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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

This child's-eye view of the Holocaust is a misfire.

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This domestic melodrama set during the Holocaust and adapted from John Boyne's novel, left me pondering: With literally millions of real horror stories, why make up an utterly unbelievable one, and then lard it up with mawkish sentimentality, just in case we don't get it? Mark Herman's film follows 8-year-old Bruno (Asa Butterfield), the son of a Nazi officer assigned to run a concentration camp; the family lives next door and in plain sight of smoking crematoriums. But little Bruno believes it's a farm, and through the barb-wire fence, he befriends the half-starved, dirty Shmuel (Jack Scanlon), or the boy in the striped pajamas. There's a kernel of interesting material here -- after all, somebody's otherwise nice daddy did manage the death camps -- but Boy rarely probes uncomfortable truths, opting instead for a rather shallow depiction of increasingly head-scratching circumstances. That the cast speaks drawing-room English -- David Thewlis and Vera Farmiga portray Bruno's parents -- only adds to the disconnect of this exercise, which burbles along like a sunny Sunday afternoon until its calculated conclusion. I presume the realities of war -- and this particular war -- were intentionally disregarded so that the filmmaker could present a fable-like tale from child's perspective, but I simply found the approach bizarre. Starts Fri., Nov. 21. Manor, SouthSide Works

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