Directed by Freaks and Geeks alumnus Paul Feig, this holiday-themed comedy is peopled entirely with the kind of one-note stereotypes who pass for quirky individuals in mainstream comedies. A tween romp that gets off to a grating start, the film nevertheless settles into a blandly formulaic groove as soothingly predictable as a grade-school pageant or a cable...read more
Directed by Freaks and Geeks alumnus Paul Feig, this holiday-themed comedy is peopled entirely with the kind of one-note stereotypes who pass for quirky individuals in mainstream comedies. A tween romp that gets off to a grating start, the film nevertheless settles into a blandly formulaic groove as soothingly predictable as a grade-school pageant or a cable Christmas special. The frantic, high-decibel opening introduces the main characters via their manner of interacting with mall Santas: Brainiac Charlie Goldfinch (Tyler James Williams, of TV's Everybody Hates Chris) faints, spoiled rich-girl Grace Conrad (Gina Mantegna) flirts, hostile tomboy Donna Malone (Quinn Shephard) slugs him, and awkward Spencer Davenport (Dyllan Christopher) clambers onto St. Nick's lap to reassure his bratty little sister, Katherine (Dominique Saldana), and is instantly labeled a dork. All are traveling without adult supervision on Christmas Eve — modern family complications, you know — and they all get snowed in at Midwestern Hoover Airport, along with cranky supervisor Oliver Porter (Lewis Black), who was about to leave for his first Christmas vacation in 15 years and is instead trapped with throngs of disgruntled passengers. Bad enough that adults are milling around the terminal griping, but the unaccompanied minors (UMs, in airline lingo) are running riot. Charlie, Grace, Donna and Spencer earn Porter's particular wrath by escaping from the UM room to sample the delights of the first-class lounge, the airport concessions and some stolen go-carts. So when the other youngsters are relocated to a nearby hotel, the escapees are condemned to spend the night under strict supervision at the terminal. Naturally, they're too bright and resourceful to be corralled for long by soft-hearted Zach Van Bourke (Wilmer Valderrama), and Spencer's determination to get to the hotel and look after Katherine gives them a more palatable goal than self-centered hell-raising. Two badly integrated subplots periodically provide a break from the airport: One involves Spencer and Katherine's environmentalist dad (Rob Corddry), who's trying to reach them and must choose between ideals and family when his hybrid car breaks down and the only vehicle available to him is a Hummer. The other is obese Timothy "Beef" Wellington (BAD SANTA's Brett Kelly), a fellow UM-room refugee determined to find a Christmas tree. There isn't an original moment in the mix, but it's not as crass or vulgar as much of what passes for "family friendly" entertainment, and it keeps the precocious pop-culture references to a blessed minimum.
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