The kids in the film behave badly. The adults behave worse.

John J. Puccio's picture
John J.

You know a movie on DVD is in trouble when the best part of it is the time your wife kicks you out of the room to vacuum. I cherished those few minutes.

"Unaccompanied Minors" was easily the worst comedy of 2006. Maybe the worst film of any kind of 2006.

Not one laugh. Not one smile. Not one hint of amusement or pleasure did it bring me. Does that mean I hated it? No, of course not. It's only a movie. It just used up some of my time, not such a precious commodity since retiring, but I would imagine it would irritate some other viewers.

Director Paul Feig has spent most of his career doing stuff for TV, and it shows. "Unaccompanied Minors" feels like a slightly expanded sitcom and has everything but a laugh track to announce where the jokes are supposed to be. A laugh track might have helped; I dunno.

The movie is unfunny from the opening scenes, where we see a dad and his son fainting at the sight of a department-store Santa, a girl thinking a Santa is "hot," and a yet another little girl punching a Santa in the stomach. Well, if nothing else, these scenes prepare us for the quality of the humor to come.

It's the Christmas season at a big metropolitan airport, and a variety of kids are flying off by themselves for sundry destinations. The airlines designate such passengers "unaccompanied minors." Then a storm hits the area, and the airport gets snowed in. No flights in or out. The snowstorm grounds all the passengers. So, what does the airport's head of passenger relations, Oliver Porter (Lewis Black), do with all the unaccompanied youngsters? He herds them up and locks them in the "Unaccompanied Minors Room," a black hole in the airport basement where the children go nuts, running amok, kicking, fighting, screaming, and burping for no particular reason.

The kids in the film behave badly. The adults behave worse.

Every child is an exaggerated stereotype, from the snob to the nerd to the klutz to the loser. If I were a kid, I'd sue the scriptwriters. But they're not as bad as the adults, who are total idiots, starting with Black's character, who is obnoxious in the extreme.

Ah, but kids are creative and have minds of their own, at least of few of them. Early on, a group of five youngsters escape from this dungeon, and the rest the film is a chase, with airport security frantically trying to track down the missing children. The five kids are Charlie Goldfinch (Tyler Jones Williams), a black Jewish lad who flies unaccompanied quite a lot; Timothy "Beef" Wellington (Brett Kelly), an extra-large, quiet boy; Grace Conrad (Gina Mantegna), a spoiled rich girl; Donna Malone (Quinn Shepherd), an eleven-year-old with attitude; and Spencer Davenport (Dyllan Christopher), described as a "dorky kid from the AV squad" by a gathering of girls, yet who is very cute and very charming; go figure. He becomes the movie's central character, so I guess it's important that he be sort of an outcast but not an entirely unappealing one.

As I've said, there was not a single thing in the film I found amusing, unless you consider peeing, belching, punching, and yelling amusing. The movie starts out bad and gets worse. Most of the jokes are cringe-inducing, and until near the end of the movie, most of the kids are bratty.

Think of an unfunny "Home Alone" combined with a thoughtless, preteen version of "The Breakfast Club." I mean, what are we to think of children who outwardly appear normal going crazy in an unclaimed baggage area? Or people of all ages doing ridiculously stupid things like trying to drive a bio-diesel automobile across country in a blizzard?

The film's pacing is herky-jerky, the airport setting is static, and the slapstick routines are clumsy. By the time the ending rolls around, the story gets soggy and predictably sentimental, yet that is the only part of the movie with any heart. Maybe you should just watch the last ten minutes of "Unaccompanied Minors." You might be better off.

Warner Bros. offer the film in two screen formats on flip sides of the disc: the original 2.40:1 ratio theatrical version, anamorphically enhanced for 16x9 televisions, and a 1.33:1 pan-and-scan, "formatted to fit your screen." The P&S version cuts out a good deal of the film's image left and right, but it does display a bit more information at the top and bottom. The picture is clean and bright, the colors perhaps a tad too intense to be realistic. Definition is a trifle rough, though, and I noticed some occasional moire effects, rippling lines.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio processing ensures that everything on the soundtrack comes through loud and clear, with an emphasis on "loud." Although there is not much in the way of surround sound, the front-channel stereo spread is wide enough to keep one's attention. Actually, it's a fairly ordinary soundtrack, sonically speaking, with enough but not too much bass, enough but not too much treble, and enough but not too much dynamic range. Mostly, the audio track just has to convey a lot of inane dialogue and annoying music. In that regard, it does its job.

The extras include most of the same items we've come to expect. Things start with an audio commentary, this one by actor Lewis Black, director Paul Feig, and writers Jacob Meszaros and Mya Stark. They are honest enough to admit from the outset that critics hated the film, and they even crack a few jokes at the film's expense. There is also a captioned version of the commentary for the hearing impaired. Next is "Charlie's Dance Reel," about three minutes of Tyler James Williams doing an outtake of his dance number, along with a few other outtakes for good measure. Then there are seven additional scenes, about six minutes total, followed by a twenty-minute featurette, "Guards in the Hall," in which the actors playing the airport security guards do some funny business that isn't all that funny but is probably better than anything that made it into the movie.

The extras conclude with twenty-four scene selections but no chapter insert; English, French, and Spanish spoken languages and subtitles; and English captions for the hearing impaired.

Parting Shots:
OK, maybe I'm being excessively harsh on this film. Maybe there were worse films in 2006, and I just didn't see them. So, let me put it another way: "Unaccompanied Minors" is the worst film that I personally saw from the year 2006. While it's true that for sheer awfulness it can't hold a candle to something as thoroughly offensive as "Freddy Got Fingered," "Unaccompanied Minors" is still bad, an affront to the good name of children and adults everywhere, since it reduces everybody in the picture, young and old, to stale, idiotic clichés and gives them nothing worthwhile to say or do.

I would not watch this DVD unaccompanied; after WB's familiar opening logo, you need someone to pull you away from the TV set lest you be tempted to spend any more of your valuable time on it.


Film Value