XX "Getting Even With Dad," with Macaulay Culkin, Ted Danson, Glenne Headly, Saul Rubinek, Hector Elizondo. Directed by Howard Deutch, from a script by Tom S. Parker and Jim Jennewein. Crossroads, Everett 9, Factoria, Gateway, Grand Cinemas Alderwood, Kent, Metro, Mountlake 9, Newmark, Oak Tree, Renton Village, Totem Lake, "PG" - Parental guidance advised, because of subject matter. -----------------------------------------------------------------
The new summer movies don't get much more formulaic than this bald attempt to capture the audience that can't wait to see the next three or four installments of "Home Alone."
Once more, Macaulay Culkin plays an alarmingly resourceful child who outwits a couple of crooks who behave like the Two Stooges. This time they're played by Saul Rubinek and Gailard Sartain, whose calculated bumbling won't make anyone forget Joe Pesci or Dan Stern.
Culkin is again abandoned by his guardians (a restless aunt and her miserable boyfriend) and thrown into a chummy relationship with a new parental figure (Ted Danson). In this case, the parent substitute happens to be his real father. Culkin just hasn't seen him for years because he's been in prison for robbery.
As it happens, their reunion takes place just as dad and his stooges are preparing for another big-time theft, involving $1.5 million in rare coins. Culkin gets wind of this early enough to outwit all three crooks, hiding the coins in exchange for a good time on the town and at least a hint of respect and affection from dad.
Culkin also comes up with a prospective mate for his father, whose ex-wife has died. When an attractive cop (Glenne Headly) tries to set a trap for the thieves, she becomes part of Culkin's scheme to reform his father and establish a home. Although cast as an 11-year-old, Culkin is now a teen. Aside from long hair and a few hints from dad about how to pick up women, there's little acknowledgement he's growing up. He does what he's done before, to less effect. The older he gets, the less precocious his character's behavior becomes.
The novelty's worn off, even though the screenwriters, Tom S. Parker and Jim Jennewein ("The Flintstones"), do try to keep the boy a step or two ahead of the audience. They and director Howard Deutch ("Pretty in Pink") are more successful with Danson, who manages the difficult feat of making his character seem both decent and wrong-headed.
Unfortunately, his role is also an indicator of how desperately the filmmakers want to have it both ways. The picture is part slapstick comedy, part tearjerker, but the mixture rarely works, and sometimes it's actively irritating. Perhaps the worst offender is Miles Goodman's score, which acts like a cattle prod, telling us when to laugh and when to sniffle. It's very resistible.