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Getting Even With Dad Reviews

A smug comedy about a precocious child who teaches his deadbeat dad about the true meaning of family, GETTING EVEN WITH DAD is only occasionally funny and commits every sin in the sitcom lexicon. Ray Gleason (Ted Danson) is a lovable loser, a small time crook working at a cake shop and plotting the one last score that will let him retire from a life of crime and open his own bakery. With his bumbling partners Bobby (Saul Rubinek) and Carl (Gailard Sartain), he plans to steal a fortune in gold coins, a scheme that's disrupted when Ray's neglected 10-year-old, Timmy (Macaulay Culkin), is unceremoniously dumped on his doorstep on the very day of the heist. Ray treats Timmy shamefully, making the boy feel just as unwelcome as he is, until the wily youngster takes control of the situation. Timmy sees the gang hide the loot and secretes it somewhere else, then blackmails Ray into being a good dad: only if he takes the boy to an apparently endless series of zoos, ball games, aquariums, amusement parks, and miniature golf courses will Timmy reveal the location of the money. And since there's no honor among thieves, comic foils Bobby and Carl--respectively a leather-jacketed sleaze with the brains of a fruit fly and a fastidious glutton with a vast collection of expensive suits crying out to be soiled--tag along to make sure Ray doesn't try to gyp them out of their share. Complicating matters is bumbling lady cop Theresa (Glenne Headly), who's been assigned to investigate the robbery. By following Dad's advice about meeting girls, Timmy manages to hook her up with his secretly lonely and romantic father. Between his blossoming amour and his increasingly close relationship with Timmy, Ray is quickly transformed from a slippery no-account into a paragon of parenthood, and when matters come to the crunch, he rejects his criminal past in favor of the love of his son. At the heart of GETTING EVEN WITH DAD is a premise that runs entirely counter to the film's aggressively bright, madcap tone: that an overlooked boy is so desperate for his selfish father's affection that he'll resort to blackmail to secure even the appearance of paternal attention. Even the title suggests a strangely sour worldview, one in which the best a child can hope for is to pay back his indifferent father for a lifetime of abandonment. It's hard to wish GETTING EVEN WITH DAD had been nasty enough to live up to its billing, but it's impossible not to wish it had a little more bite. As directed by John Hughes protege Howard Deutch, whose earlier credits include PRETTY IN PINK (1986) and SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL (1987), GETTING EVEN WITH DAD veers between the sentimental and the just plain stupid, never aspiring to be anything more than an entertaining trifle and failing to achieve even its modest ambitions. The film's greatest liability is Culkin, grown awkwardly out of his HOME ALONE cuteness into a Stepford Child star whose pampered mannerisms, carefully coiffed locks, and puffy, lipglossed mouth are entirely unsuited to the role of a wary, neglected boy scarred by a rootless childhood. Culkin is every inch the little prince, and it's hard to root for Timmy when all you want is for Macaulay to get his comeuppance. TV star Ted Danson ("Cheers") fares better as Ray, at first balancing the character's low-life grit and oddly refined ambitions--he really does enjoy icing lavishly ornamented cakes, a skill he learned in jail--but is ultimately overwhelmed by the insipid script. GETTING EVEN WITH DAD is a comedy in which the laughs are at the expense of fat guys, knuckleheads, and klutzes, and a sentimental fable about family in which viewers are meant to roar when Timmy replies, "I'm 11," to Ray's hopelessly misguided attempt at father/son chitchat, "You dating yet?" (Profanity.)