Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The 31 Day Movie Challenge - Day 24 - THE GOOD SON (1993)

- Rated R for acts of violence and terror involving a disturbed child (but really should have been rated PG-13.  Non of the violence is graphic and Kevin from HOME ALONE just says the F-word once).
- Starring Elijah Wood, Macaulay Culkin, Wendy Crewson, David Morse
- Written by Ian McEwan
- Directed by Joseph Ruben
- Running time: 1hr 26min

(The 31 Day Movie Challenge was proposed to me by fellow film critic Jessie Hoheisel (from superawesomemovieblog). We each chose 30 films for each other to review for the month of May. The first film chosen will be from 1970. The second film from 1971... and so on. The last day will be a film from 2000. I accepted the challenge!) 

When I was 17, this was kind of a big deal.  I mean, the kid from HOME ALONE is playing an evil kid and he says "fuck"!  Awesome!  For some reason, I never got around to seeing it.  Though I was curious, at the time, I just hated these kinds of movies.  Never found a taste for these B-grade thrillers, but my moviegoing mind is more open now, so I finally gave it a legitimate chance.

As much as the studio would like you to believe (with all the marketing and advertising), Macaulay Culkin is NOT the main star. That would be played by Elijah Wood as Mark.  He just lost his mother and must stay with his Aunt, uncle, and 2 cousins Henry (Culkin) and Connie while his father travels to China for 2 weeks on business.  At first, everything seems normal.  Mark and Henry seem to get along like best friends for the first couple of days.  But every once in awhile, Mark notice's some odd things about Henry.  Like when Mark almost falls from a tree house, Henry grabs a hold of him as says, "If I let you go, could you fly?".  But Henry does pull Mark up and the two laugh about the situation.  Then Henry does the worst humanly thing possible: He lights up a cigarette.  Oooooh!  What a bad kid!  Henry does finally do some pretty bad things like shooting a dog with a steel bolt, intentionally whipping his sister Connie toward the thin ice while ice skating, and hinting that he may have purposely drowned his little brother.  Mark tries to tell his aunt and uncle these things, but of course they don't believe him.  He even tries to tell his shrink but Henry has already gone to her turning the tables on Mark, having everyone believe he's the disturbed Child.  Mark must stop Henry before he ends up killing someone.

Yeah.  It's definitely B-grade, which doesn't automatically make it a terrible movie.  In fact, it's possible to make a trashy story like this work with the right ingredients.  Elijah Wood was already a talented actor by this point (being in AVALON and the very underrated RADIO FLYER), and he turns in a solid performance here as Mark.  He's very easy to like and conveys all the appropriate emotions this kind of role requires.  David Morse is good (per usual) as Mark's father, but he's not in it much.  The rest of the cast fits the B-movie bill, with cheesy acting.

Joesph Ruben keeps the picture movie swiftly with fast past direction and slick camera movements.  Lots of overhead and crane shots here.  It definitely has a good visual style going for it.  The script is typical of the genre, as it hits all of it's marks predictably.  However, the movie doesn't work for one main reason.  Macualay Culkin.  He is NOT good in this, delivering every line with absolutely no conviction.  I think he was trying here, but the approach was all wrong.  Instead of scenery chewing, Culkin downplays his performance by saying his lines almost monotonous.  I get that they were trying for a kind of "quiet creepy" thing but it's all wrong here.  I guarantee you this would have been 100% more effective if Wood and Culkin switched roles, as the former has far more range than the latter.  Culkin just doesn't have the experience (or the talent) to pull this kind of part off just yet.

I had fun with some of the set pieces in a fun B-movie kind of way (love the kids rolling along the edge of a cliff fighting each other) and there is a satisfying comeuppance.  However, the movie ends almost too abruptly, making it feel incomplete.  This wasn't a disaster, just disappointing knowing that this could have been something fun.  Instead, the studios wanted to cash in on the novelty of having Culkin play a real bastard of a child.  I guess it got some asses in seats, but that doesn't mean that it was a good final product.

** (out of ****)

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