Genre: Tween Christmas Adventure
Directed by: Paul Feig
Starring: Lewis Black, Wilmer Valderrama, Dyllan Christopher, Tyler James Williams, Gina Mantegna
If I were 10 years old, I would have honestly enjoyed -- maybe even loved -- Unaccompanied Minors. However, since 10 came and went awhile ago, the best I can say about this movie is that there are certainly worse options when it comes to family entertainment this holiday season. Sure, it's basically Home Alone (1990) meets The Breakfast Club (1985), and it does contain the requisite "true spirit of Christmas" sentimental ending, but it's not as painfully bad or insultingly stupid as this year's other holiday offerings (Deck the Halls and The Santa Clause 3 come immediately to mind). What you get is a film that kids will enjoy, and parents will actually find bearable, though it's far from the holiday classic that I'm sure it wants to be.
The movie itself has an interesting pedigree, starting off as a story by Mya Stark on NPR's This American Life. While I have never heard Stark's story, one may safely assume that it's something that works better as a short story being read on the radio than inflated to a feature film. It doesn't help that the movie seems to have been boiled down into just another tween adventure fantasy. Director Paul Feig (I Am David) is obviously conscious of the somewhat highbrow source material, and has thrown in cameos by actors from cult television shows like Kids in the Hall and Arrested Development, and a few jokes about biodiesel. This would be fine and dandy if it didn't feel like a superficial, tacked-on attempt at smartening up the movie beyond its generic concept -- not to mention the fact that any person who is likely to find this impressive isn't the target audience for Unaccompanied Minors in the first place.
The concept is strong enough for this type of movie: A group of minors traveling by themselves for the holidays get snowed in at an airport. The bulk of the movie consists of them running amok throughout the building as they attempt to evade airport security and the man in charge of the airport, Oliver (Lewis Black, Accepted), who, of course, hates Christmas. Naturally, by the end of the film, all the children have bonded and learned to look past their differences, while Oliver has learned the true meaning of Christmas. If you think you've seen it before, you probably have -- numerous times -- though at least Unaccompanied Minors never allows itself to become too gooey or sentimental.
Also in the film's defense, the kids aren't all that obnoxious or annoying, and the filmmakers at least try for a different tone. For instance, all of the kids are either from families whose parents are divorced or have rocky relationships. This is a nice contrast to the "normal" upper middle-class suburban families who usually populate these films, but it isn't enough to make the movie anything more than passable. Rated PG for mild rude humor and language.
-- reviewed by Justin Souther
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