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Unaccompanied Minors is the movie you’d expect it to be. Kids flying without parents are stranded in an airport on Christmas during a blizzard. The airport public relation director is a total dick, and he locks them away in a room without any Christmas decorations or anything. To save Christmas, they escape the room and wreak havoc on the airport, running and hiding, and making life hell for the snowed in airport staff. Those little scamps!
I assume what director Paul Feig is going for here is something along the lines of Home Alone, but with more characters in it, since more is always better. But it’s not. How ever much of a punch line Home Alone has become since its massive popularity in the 90s, the film was creative and genuinely funny. Unaccompanied Minors is neither. This movie’s kid heroes aren’t smart enough to come up with the sorts of creative tortures young Kevin foisted on Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci. The best these kids can muster is a lot of running. Whenever the film strives to be anything more than that, it comes off as a half-hearted attempt at aping John Hughes and The Breakfast Club.
Lewis Black plays the obligatory airport meanie, and while he’s survived admirably in bad movies before, he’s hacked off at the knees here. Accepted for instance, is a terrible movie, but in it Lewis Black is genius simply because he’s allowed all the ranting and raving he can muster. Stuck in a family movie, Black has been reduced to grimacing and snarling. Gone is the spastic, angry, R-rated humor that makes him so funny in the first place. All that’s left is Chevy Chase. Modern day Chevy, not funny Chevy from 20 years ago.
The rest of the non-kid cast is a mixture of cameos and sitcom castoffs. Wilmer Valderrama is barely worth mentioning as a sympathetic airport employee. Is that his real accent, or is it supposed to be funny? I couldn’t tell. Terry Garr shows up for an uncredited cameo, and scares the hell out of everyone in the audience with the size of her head. She’s not aging gracefully, and I hate to be a jerk here, but her appearance has become legitimately disturbing. There were murmurs of shock from the audience every time her gigantic, flabby noggin floated onto the screen. It’s massively jarring But the highlight of the film is actually a bizarre, out of blue, ‘Kids in the Hall’ reunion in which Kevin McDonald, Bruce McCulloch, and Mark McKinney play three bored security guards, appropriately enough, hanging out in a hallway. It’s thirty seconds of funny in an otherwise boring movie.
The movie’s child actors are decent, there’s just nothing for them to do. It’s nice to see Bad Santa star Brett Kelly in another comedy, but he’s written out of the script five minutes in, and returns only at the very end. ‘Everybody Hates Chris’ star Tyler James William tries, but his character is written as mini Steve Urkel. Actually, I found that borderline offensive. Why does the token black kid have to be comic relief? The movie’s low point is one truly uncomfortable moment where Williams stands up in front of the white kids and dances. As the whitey mcwhites look on in mild, condescending amusement you can almost see the “n” word running through the rich girl’s head.
Undercurrents of racism aside, Unaccompanied Minors isn’t terrible, it’s just predictable. Though the audience I saw it with periodically laughed along with it, some of them also made a game out of guessing the next gag before it happened. More often than not, they got it right. If that’s your idea of a good time, then Unaccompanied Minors is a holiday film you won’t want to miss.