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‘Getting Even With Dad’

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
June 17, 1994


Howard Deutch
Ted Danson;
Macaulay Culkin;
Glenne Headly;
Hector Elizondo;
Gailard Sartain;
Saul Rubinek
slapstick violence, abject law-breaking and pretty obvious hairpieces

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"Getting Even With Dad," starring Macaulay Culkin and Ted Danson, aims so nakedly for teenagers and family audiences that it forgets to dress up its intentions. Kids turning out to watch Culkin will see a barely warmed over "Home Alone." Already far too cynical for their age, they will instantly recognize more banality from the Dumb Factory, pseudo-dedicated to the glory of parenthood.

Who, exactly, is supposed to fall for this stuff?

As a deadbeat father in San Francisco, Danson wants to go straight after one last heist. But on the eve of his final robbery (the filching of a rare coin collection worth $1.5 million), he gets a big surprise. His sister, who needs a little time with her new husband, dumps Danson's estranged son Culkin on his doorstep for a week.

Determined to continue the mission, Danson -- in league with bumbling cronies Saul Rubinek and Gailard Sartain -- makes the familiar Hollywood mistake of ignoring his kid. Culkin, who's yearning for some real Daddy love, makes him pay big time.

After discovering where Danson and company stashed the coins, Culkin hides the loot and makes his blackmail intentions known. If they want the goods, Danson had better treat Culkin like a real son. This means taking the squinty-eyed, mumbling little brat to an amusement park, a baseball game, a miniature golf course and so forth. While Culkin has a blast, Danson and his partners snarl clownishly in the background.

Danson, naturally, gradually warms up to his paternal responsibilities. And in the kind of subplot that looks like a subplot, gifted but ditsy undercover cop Glenne Headly -- keeping tabs on the thieves -- is charmed by the cheesy bonding sessions between Danson and Culkin. Hmmm, where could that be going?

Director Howard Deutch, and writers Tom S. Parker and Jim Jennewein (whose credits include the stone-age bomb, "The Flintstones"), display their lack of imagination and logic throughout. Most of the incompetence is centered on Culkin, who:

x rains slapstick damage on Rubinek and Sartain -- a recurring gag plundered shamelessly from "Home Alone."

x finds out about Danson's involvement in the theft by chancing upon a news article about the coins circled in red pen, then happens to catch a TV news announcement about the robbery.

x enters a recording booth at the amusement park to sing along ("lovably") to the Contours' "Do You Love Me," a 1962 standard the 11-year-old couldn't possibly know.

So many moments like these, so few spittoons.

It's hardly giving away the plot to say father and son will get back together, since the movie heralds this impending reunion like those countless interstate billboards leading to South of the Border. But this 110-minute movie never seems to end, even after the various, idiotic storylines are finally resolved. After plying the audience with formulaic predictability, "Getting Even" doesn't even have the decency to end quickly. Minutes away from sending the audience home, it chooses to fall asleep on the job.

GETTING EVEN WITH DAD (PG) — Contains slapstick violence, abject law-breaking and pretty obvious hairpieces.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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