I guess, it was a great idea. 20th Century Fox certainly thought so. They produced the Home Alone movies that both proved very profitable. Mac had milked his little angel cuteness as much as he could. And it was time to flaunt him as a psychotic killer. The idea is fascinating. The execution - pun intended - is mediocre.

Mark (Elijah Wood) is convinced his dead mother is coming back. He has a bizarre belief that she will take over the body of his aunt Susan (Wendy Crewson). His dad leaves him in her care, while he flies to Tokyo on a business trip, and Mark seems to enjoy a few days of calm. However, that is soon disturbed when his cousin Henry (Macaulay Culkin) encourages him to smoke, smash windows and assassinate ugly little bulldogs. This seems to be the extent of Henry's mischief, but he also killed his baby brother and plans to kill his mother and little sister. Noone would ever suspect it, of course.

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Henry is, without doubt, the only interesting character in the movie. He is a cross between Kevin McCallister and Patrick Bateman. Wood doesn't have much to do. And neither does Crewson, in the same role we have seen her play a billion times before. The same role she played in Air Force One, Bicentennial Man, Santa Clause and The Sixth Day. The role of wife and mother. All the worst dialogue is left to her and the majority of her scenes are cringeworthy.

Many have attributed Henry's callous nature and lack of emotion to Culkin's bad acting. It's not exactly true. It IS true, however, that Culkin was never any Shirley Temple and this is probably his best performance. It's a real shame that Mac has not made a movie for eight years.

Director Joseph Ruben doesn't inject much excitement into the film and really only generates tension in the final scene. He is too occupied with using the cold New England scenery to generate mood, when he should have juiced up the script. The tone needs to be oppressive and mysterious. Instead, it's slow and schmaltzy. Mainly thanks to Elmer Bernstein's score, which sounds very much like his own rejected score for Last Man Standing and Ghostbusters.

The Good Son could have worked in two different ways - so overblown and ridiculous that it is enjoyable in a no-brainer kind of way, or well crafted, ironic and underplayed. Neither of these has been attempted by Ruben, although the unexpectedly lean running time hints at deleted material. Characters such as Alice have no meaning, or purpose, and the ending leaves a lot to be desired. A last minute voiceover wraps things up suspiciously quickly.

Reviewed on: 20 Sep 2002
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Macaulay Culkin turns psychotic killer in family melodrama.
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Director: Joseph Ruben

Writer: Ian McEwan

Starring: Macaulay Culkin, Elijah Wood, Wendy Crewson, David Morse, Daniel Hugh Kelly, Jacqueline Brookes, Quinn Culkin, Ashley Crow, Guy Strauss, Keith Brava, Jerem Goodwin

Year: 1993

Runtime: 87 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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