Neither Macaulay Culkin nor Ted Danson has improved his luck in selecting projects with this schizophrenic comedy, which can’t decide if it wants to be broadly farcical or fuzzily heartwarming. While it fares better on the latter front, pic doesn’t succeed on either level and should test the patience even among Culkin’s peer group. In short, “Dad” should have a hard time getting even where it counts.
At least the movie features Culkin once again outsmarting adults — as he did in the enormously successful “Home Alone” movies — following his bizarre foray into thriller territory with “The Good Son.”
A more subtle problem presenting itself is that the moppet icon appears to be entering a somewhat awkward stage, and his near-shoulder-length hair here doesn’t help matters any. Then again, hairstyling might be of less concern if the principals had more to work with in Tom S. Parker and Jim Jennewein’s script.
Culkin plays an 11-year-old boy dumped on the doorstep of his dad (Danson), an ex-con whom he hasn’t seen in years. Timmy, who’s been living with his aunt since his mother’s death, has the bad timing to show up just when Dad is about to undertake a major theft, seeking a big enough score to go straight and buy the bakery where he works.
Timmy has his own ideas, however, and hides his father’s ill-gotten gains, forcing him to squire the kid around town in exchange for finding out where the loot is.
That setup is obviously designed to allow father and son to grudgingly grow to love each other, while milking laughs out of Dad’s two partners in crime (Saul Rubinek, Gailard Sartain), who follow Timmy and his fathereverywhere they go, not wanting to let their share of the booty get away from them. While that provides the opportunity for “Home Alone”-type skewering of the two bumbling criminals, director Howard Deutch (“Pretty in Pink,””Some Kind of Wonderful”) never seems comfortable taking the full plunge into those waters.
As a result, even though the title and marketing imply that this will be a broad comedy, few of the jokes play that way, and the extended sequence where Culkin drags the adult trio to amusement parks, the zoo and elsewhere falls thuddingly flat.
Deutch does a little better with a cat-and-mouse search for the stash that incorporates the local police, including a femme cop (Glenne Headly) who provides a potential love interest for dad.
The narrative undergoes a real stretch to involve a female character.
In fact, that subplot serves only to prolong the movie.
It feels like a long sit, especially for small fry.
Culkin’s cold, impassive line delivery is getting a bit tired, especially as he slouches toward his teens.
While he became a megastar in “Home Alone” playing a kid who gets to live out every kid’s fantasy, it’s become obvious that it’s difficult to expand his appeal beyond that formula.
After his lengthy tenure on “Cheers,” meanwhile, Danson could use a part where he doesn’t play a borderline moron with a good heart, as he did in “Made in America” as well.
Other performances tend to be too over-the-top, particularly Rubinek as the most annoying of the small-time hoods.
Headly’s not terribly believable as a policewoman.
Technically, pic makes only sparse use of its San Francisco locales, suffers from pacing problems and relies too heavily on Miles Goodman’s score to provide the sense of impishness to which it so obviously aspires.