Rated: PG for mild rude humor and language Reviewed by: Jim Release date: December 8, 2006 Released by: Warner Brothers
Unaccompanied Minors is set on Christmas Eve when a major blizzard closes down an airport. Some may think this is similar to one of the Home Alone movies produced by John Hughes, but it's almost a pre-teen haphazard fusion of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles and The Breakfast Club.
Shades of Ferris Bueller's Day Off, even The Terminal are felt here as a number of kids are stranded traveling unattended to spend the Yuletide with a single parent.
Wilmer Valderrama blandly is Zach, the airport worker who is given the dubious task to watch over these youngsters. However, a handful seem to fall through the cracks: mercurial Spencer (Dyllan Christopher), rubber-faced Charlie (Tyler James Williams), soft-hearted giant Beef (Brett Kelly), as well as spunky wealthy girl Grace (Gina Mantegna) and rebellious Donna (Quinn Shepherd). This will be a long night for the heavy in airport manager Oliver (Lewis Black).
Paul Feig (TV's "Freaks and Geeks") ham-fistedly directs to support the juvenile energy on view to make the Oliver character trying to outsmart the productive kids in a scenario that makes one think of MacCauley Culkin versus Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern.
But, the lazy script just makes what is corny seem that much slippery as the stuff of prefabrication to provide the necessary escape, as an abandoned luggage warehouse, a sled, a dog or walkie-talkies. Some of the genuine wit during Unaccompanied Minors feels like improvisation during filming.
There is some romance and family issues that play out for our young restless travelers, pushing the sentiment to make it all heartwarming, including saving Christmas for Spencer's cute little sister (Dominique Saldana). It's not easy, for the most part, to handle kids on set, as Williams seems too wacky in a physical way, while Christopher and Mantegna almost are engaging enough to make their characters more than stereotypes. Black is annoying as the requisite unsavory guy and Valderrama is oddly underused when it comes to potentially mining some comedic talent. Even veteran actresses like Teri Garr and Jessica Walter make fleeting impressions.
Hardly funny or original, Unaccompanied Minors is too half-hearted and sugar-coated as holiday family entertainment. Like the plight of its hardly memorable stars, it's grounded instead of an amiable escape.