The Good Son (1993) / Thriller

MPAA Rated: R for violence and language
Running Time: 87 min.


Cast: Elijah Wood, Macaulay Culkin, Wendy Crewson, David Morse, Daniel Hugh Kelly, Quinn Culkin, Jacqueline Brookes
Director: Joseph Ruben
Screenplay: Ian McEwan
Review published June 26, 2006

A feeble thriller involving children, with echoes of The Bad Seed, The Good Son put fan favorite Macaulay Culkin (My Girl, Uncle Buck) in a role nobody particularly wanted to see him in -- a sadistic killer.  Further compounding the film's commercial problems is the "R" rating, although it certainly could pass as PG-13.  Perhaps the rating was due to the fact that Culkin's biggest fans are primarily children, many of whom had already learned to emulate his behavior from the Home Alone films, and parents would have been concerned about the possibility of kids acting like their role model when he plays an amoral psychopath.  Regardless of the ratings decision, The Good Son isn't really a film that strikes home with any particular audience, except save for schlock thriller junkies, as the boring story and lack of quality scares keep this one firmly grounded by routine formula plotting and overwhelming predictability.

Although Culkin would be the top billed performer, Elijah Wood (Deep Impact, The Faculty) is the main star, playing Mark Evans, a young boy still suffering from the untimely death of his mother.  His father (Morse, The Rock) has to go on a two-week business trip out of the country, leaving Mark in the care of his uncle Wallace (Kelly, Star Trek: Insurrection) and aunt Susan (Crewson, Air Force One), the latter still reeling from a family loss of her own youngest son.  When Mark meets his uncle's family, he makes fast friends with his same-age cousin Henry (Culkin), although he becomes increasingly concerned about Henry's odd behavior, and soon think that Henry is a danger to other people, including his own family.  Mark tries to drop hints about Henry's sociopathic behavior to the adults, but they assume Mark is the one that is unstable, still upset about hs mother's loss, so Mark is forced to fight to keep Henry from doing any more damage all on his own,

The production of The Good Son was troubled from the get-go, originally intended to be made back in the late 1980s, when such fare was popular, with such films as Fatal Attraction and The Hand That Rocks the Cradle scoring high returns at the box office.  It didn't get made for several years, with casting and directorial changes still keeping the film behind schedule, and by the time of its release in 1993, the mini-genre known as the domestic thriller had past its peak. 

Despite the lack of general interest, Culkin was still a red-hot box office draw, and the film did make a decent amount ($44 million), but few were truly feeling any love for the film, especially in seeing cutesy Culkin act like an arrogant crackpot.  It also doesn't help matters that Culkin is not a terribly convincing young actor, with co-star Elijah Wood running rings around him in terms of sheer acting skills.  One wonders how much more effective the film might have been if the roles were reversed.  Then again. even with a potential improvement in the acting, the tired storyline is still a major liability.

With vacant thrills and no real surprises, The Good Son is a forgettable suspense entry that, even at a relatively short 87 minutes, seems much longer than it needed to be.  Perhaps the kindest thing one can say about it is that it packs more laughs (who wouldn't find a mother and son fighting tooth and nail over possession of a rubber duck amusing?), albeit unintentionally, than the Home Alone films.

 Qwipster's rating:

2006 Vince Leo