What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that although this film is relentlessly dumb, kids -- especially those who like slapstick violence and watching other kids outsmart adults -- will probably want to see it. (That said, during one preview screening, after about 30 minutes, a 6- or 7-year-old asked his mother if they could please go home.) The stranded kids misbehave both with and without adult supervision, throwing candy and toys, destroying furniture, and piling on top of the man assigned to watch them. They order food they can't pay for, steal a motorized cart, steal items from abandoned luggage, let loose a caged dog, sneak out of the airport, and watch as adults fall, crash, and rage (a chase on sleds/rafts leads to a crash and one man's bloody and bruised face). An aunt drinks herself into unconsciousness (played as comedy), and a boy finds a bra in a suitcase where he's trapped. Some minor name-calling.
What's the story?
Before they're stranded in a Chicago airport by a blizzard, the core group of "minors" are introduced, establishing his or her essential character. With his parents divorced, Spencer (Dyllan Christopher) feels responsible for his little sister Katy (Dominique Saldana). Harvard-bound Charlie (Tyler James Williams) worries about proper behavior and looking smart all the time. Tomboy Donna (Quinn Shephard) hates to be touched but likes to hurt others. Wealthy Grace (Gina Mantegna) acts older than she is. And lonely Beef (Brett Kelly) clings to his Aquaman action figure. Horrified by the chaos of the airport's "unaccompanied minors room," these kids start to bond, mainly over Spencer's problem. See, he left Katy in the terrible room, so he embarks on a mission to bring her a gift so she won't lose faith in Santa. His efforts are paralleled by those of his father, Sam (Rob Corddry), who's driving dangerous conditions to get them. Their mother, Valerie (Paget Brewster), is less effective, watching TV and worrying back home, as Aunt Judy (Teri Garr, in a cameo) drink herself into a stupor while wearing ornaments and a Santa hat. As annoying as such silly displays may be, the children's more immediate concern is with their primary adversary, Scroogey airport manager Oliver Porter (Lewis Black), who calls the kids names and makes it his personal mission to make them feel bad.
Is it any good?
Both tedious and hyperactive, UNACCOMPANIED MINORS is also a strangely careless movie. Given that it ends up preaching the value of adults and kids sharing Christmas together, it spends an awful lot of time showing the extreme incompatibility of the two species by following a group of kids who, understandably frustrated at their seeming abandonment on Christmas Eve, outsmart and abuse any and all adults they meet.
While Unaccompanied Minors might seem to fall into the kids-running-amok holiday subgenre most famously exemplified by Home Alone, Paul Fieg's movie is a disappointment in several ways. Crass and unimaginative, it's more an assembly of disconnected scenes than a movie with a plot. After they're befriended by Porter's disgruntled employee, Zach (Wilmer Valderrama), the kids eventually triumph, of course, but you're left wondering just what they've won. And, more importantly, what better use you might have found for your time.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the movie's premise. How realistic is it that something like this could happen? If real kids did get stranded at an airport, do you think they'd act like this? Kids, how would you behave in that situation? What issues are brought up by kids traveling alone, especially during the holidays. What precautions can families take to make sure these trips go off smoothly? And for fun, what sorts of activities can you come up with during a "snow day"?