Macaulay Culkin is still trading on his childhood charm, left over from such box-office hits as the "Home Alone" movies and "Uncle Buck." But he's getting a bit too old to just stare at the camera with those sleepy eyes and "make cute."
As a pre-teen in "Getting Even With Dad," one who is supposed to be highly intelligent, as well as street smart, this act seems stale and inappropriate for the character.
In fact, Culkin's performance here is so lethargic that he seems to bring the entire production down and the stilted direction, by Howard Deutch ("The Great Outdoors," "Pretty in Pink"), doesn't help.
The story casts Culkin as an unwanted kid. His mother passed away some years ago and his father (Ted Danson) is a petty crook who spent three years in prison. Danson's single sister (Kathleen Wilhoite) has had custody of Culkin.
As the film opens, Danson is planning a robbery of rare coins, the "big score" that will set him up for life. His partners are two dopes, played in campy Laurel & Hardy fashion by Saul Rubinek and Gailard Sartain.
Meanwhile, his sister has just gotten married and is about to leave for her honeymoon. So, she drops the kid off with Danson, who wants nothing to do with him, of course.
The trio still pulls off the robbery the next day, but when Culkin discovers what Danson has been doing, he hides the coins and blackmails his father into spending time with him.
You can probably write the rest of this yourself, as Danson begins to realize that Culkin is more important to him than instant, stolen wealth. But Rubinek, who has been a comic character for most of the movie, albeit a bit mean-spirited, suddenly turns into a genuinely nasty villain, complicating matters.
Rubinek's character is the least of the film's problems, however. In fact, this is a movie in which nothing makes sense, the characters seem lifeless and artificial and the energy level is remarkably low.
If there was charm or wit in the original screenplay by Tom S. Parker and Jim Jennewein ("The Flintstones," "Stay Tuned," "Major League II"), it has disappeared in this dispirited production, which falls flat at nearly every turn.
And if Macaulay Culkin is still getting $7 million per picture, the movers and shakers in Hollywood are even dumber than this movie.
"Getting Even With Dad" is rated PG for violence and profanity.