Perhaps the most astonishing thing about “Unaccompanied Minors” is that so much talent could have produced so very little.
Consider the pedigree of the performers involved — director Paul Feig, who masterminded the criminally short-lived “Freaks and Geeks,” “Everybody Hates Chris” star Tyler James Williams, Brett Kelly of “Bad Santa” and “Daily Show” correspondents Lewis Black and Rob Corddry. And that’s just the short list.
A meeting of such gifted comic minds might have yielded a gleefully subversive holiday treat, or at least something worthwhile, but no. “Unaccompanied Minors” lacks ideas and inspiration, leaving Feig and his writers to borrow plot points from the blockbusters of Christmas past, chiefly, “Home Alone.” The twist? This time, the parentless kids are stuck at the airport, armed with booty salvaged from unclaimed baggage in their quest to irritate a Scrooge-like passenger-relations specialist named Oliver (Black).
Christmas is perceived as a time for miracles, which might explain why it has inspired more fantastical tales than most holidays, but “Unaccompanied Minors” has no sense of wonder. It can’t think of anything more interesting to do with its characters than send them on shopping sprees, baggage-claim raids and high-speed chases. (It also has an oddly classist bent; one character is nicknamed “Kmart” because his mother can’t afford Christian Dior. Ho, ho, ho.)
The young actors do their best to keep things spry. Williams and Kelly essentially reprise their roles from “Chris” and “Bad Santa,” while newcomer Quinn Shephard shows promise as a feisty tomboy. But their energy is wasted.
The adults are required only to act like bumbling incompetents. Black, a comedian known for his profane political rants,is too inhibited by the sanitized atmosphere to cut loose. Corddry, in an even more thankless role, plays a caricature of a parent whose environmental concerns exist to be mocked. Best served by the film are “Kids in the Hall” Kevin McDonald, Bruce McCulloch and Mark McKinney, who manage to wring laughs out of their regrettably brief cameos.
Unaccompanied Minors *½
Starring Lewis Black, Wilmer Valderrama, Tyler James Williams, Dyllan Christopher, Brett Kelly, Gina Mantegna, Quinn Shephard
Written by Jacob Meszaros and Mya Stark
Directed by Paul Feig
Running time 89 minutes