Angelina Jolie journeyed all the way to Cambodia with hubby Billy Bob Thornton to adopt an orphaned boy, but returned home empty-handed — and heartbroken.

The actress, who filmed “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” in Cambodia last year, fell in love with the child during a return visit in July and vowed to save him from a life of poverty in the dirt-poor Southeast Asian country.

But after six days of battling red tape in November, a source said Billy Bob phoned a friend in the U.S. and admitted:

“We tried to get the little boy Angelina has fallen in love with but we can’t at the moment. There’s too much red tape. We thought we could just come in and go out. We were wrong.”

Angelina’s friend in Cambodia, Father Enrique Figaredo, a bishop in the region where the boy’s orphanage is located, told The ENQUIRER: “It can take up to a year to adopt a baby.

“There is no question that Angelina and Billy Bob will be good and loving parents but there have been so many cases in the past where babies and children have been taken out of the country, abused, even sold into slavery and prostitution, that the authorities want to know a lot and check a lot.

“There is much paperwork to be filled out!”

The source revealed: “Angelina was desperate to return to America with the child. She wanted to adopt so badly, and wanted more than anything to have the child for the holidays.

Angelina donated $1 million to help refugees fleeing the Taliban in Afghanistan.

“She wears her heart on her sleeve, and this has left her heartbroken.

“Thank God Billy Bob was there to accompany her home. He told her they would return to finalize the adoption, but his tender words couldn’t help her hide her misery.”

An insider disclosed: “Angelina was planning to appear with Billy Bob on ‘Saturday Night Live’ a few days after their return. But she was so heartbroken over not getting the child that she stayed off-camera.”

Despite his support for Angelina, Billy Bob — who has three children by two former wives — was originally reluctant to undertake the mission to Cambodia.

He has a host of fears and phobias, including being afraid to fly.

“He hates to fly and had told Angelina: ‘Let’s have a baby ourselves. Why do we need to adopt?'” said the source. “But Angelina was determined to rescue one kid from a life of abject poverty. She persuaded Billy Bob that adopting was the right thing to do.

“He loves her so much he overcame all his fears and doubts.”

Angelina and Billy Bob landed in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh on November 7.

Last July the actress was named as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. And officially, the U.N. said her November trip was to visit with returned refugees on the Cambodia-Thailand border.

But local photographer Chor Sokunhea told The ENQUIRER: “We all knew why they were here — to adopt a baby at an orphanage she had been to when she made the movie at the temples of Angkor Wat last year.

“While she had visited again last July in her post as a UN goodwill ambassador, this time it was obvious her mission was different.”

During the July visit Angelina had first seen the boy when she revisited the orphanage and she vowed: “I’ll be back for you.”

It’s no secret that Angelina wants to adopt. She told Larry King recently: “Some people have certain callings in life. Ever since I can remember hearing about different kids that need homes, I’ve always known that I would love an adopted child as much as I would love my own.”

But a devastated Angelina returned to the U.S. on November 14 after her failed adoption mission, and the next day she was in Washington, D.C.

UNHCR spokesperson Rachel Goldstein told The ENQUIRER: “She is back from Cambodia and she is spending two days with us here.

“She does not have a baby with her.”

But Angelina and Billy Bob are still certain they’ll get the baby eventually. And the source added: “When they do bring that baby out, he’ll be the luckiest little boy in the world.”