Unaccompanied Minors (Warner Bros., PG)

film_breakfastThe John Hughes film The Breakfast Club is a big influence here, which I'm very happy to see is still influencing films of all sorts a couple of decades after its release.

 

 

 

 

film_minors 

Watching the trailer or commercials for Unaccompanied Minors makes one think that the film is a knockoff of Home Alone, only set in an airport; admittedly, this premise is not altogether appealing. Luckily, what the trailer leaves out is elements of other films, that range from the obvious (The Terminal, which, while the trailer doesn't make the connection explicit, is easily figure-outable by those who consider that the kids are, you know, stuck in an airport), to the less-than-obvious (another John Hughes film, The Breakfast Club, is a big influence here, which I'm very happy to see is still influencing films of all sorts a couple of decades after its release). This makes seeing the film a lot more palatable—or, at least, more palatable to an older crowd.

Unaccompanied Minors is about a bunch of kids traveling parentless for one reason or another (although the biggest piece on the pie chart would be because their parents are divorced) on Christmas Eve, and then getting trapped in an undesirable airport due to a snowstorm (let's run with the John Hughes connection and point to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles here). The two lead children in the film, Spencer Davenport (a young Jesse Eisenberg-looking Dyllan Christopher) and his little sister Katharine (a truly awful Dominique Saldana), are basically your run-of-the-mill straight men; in addition to them, you have overachieving Charlie (Everybody Hates Chris' Tyler James Williams), the socially bankrupt Beef Wellington (Brett Kelly, better known as Bad Santa's Thurman Merman; Kelly may be getting typecast as a reject in Christmas movies now, but here's betting he grows up to be Jerry O'Connell), popular girl Grace (Gina Mantegna), and Ally Sheedy-grade weird girl Donna (Quinn Shephard). Toss in Wilmer Valderrama as a caring attendant and Lewis Black as an Ed Rooney-style authority figure/villain, and you've got a functional cast of stereotypes.

While I feel relatively certain that I would have loved this film in grade school, seeing it now just doesn't do it for me. However, it isn't painful to watch or anything, and I think that most parents bringing their kids to it will have a pleasant enough time. It's also nice that there's a little more going on in the subtext here than there is in most films directed at this audience. The focus on kids who are dealing with divorced parents is likely to reach a larger part of its audience than most people would want to admit, and the discovery in the end that each character is at once a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal still rings true all these years later. | Pete Timmermann

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