Unaccompanied Minors: A Sugar-High Fun Family Comedy
by Alex Billington
December 7, 2006
After sitting through one terrible holiday family comedy after another (Santa Clause 3, Deck the Halls), one can only hope for a worthy and enjoyable one to come along. Unaccompanied Minors may just be that movie. Paul Feig (I Am David, episodes of the American version of "The Office," "Arrested Development") takes on his second feature film and pulls together an incredibly fun, delightfully enjoyable, and hilarious family comedy about a group of youngsters who are trapped without their parents in a snowed-in airport on Christmas Eve.
Spencer Davenport (Dyllan Christopher) and his younger sister Katherine (Dominique Saldana) are traveling across the country on Christmas Eve to spend the holiday with their father. They arrive at the fictional Hoover International Airport for a layover and soon discover that the entire airport has been snowed in: every passenger is stuck, including a room filled with hundreds of kids traveling without adult companions. After the security guard assigned to watch them, Zach Van Bourke (Wilmer Valderrama), is overrun, Spencer and a small group of others sneak out to try and enjoy themselves while they wait. This unlikely group is made up of Spencer; Charlie (Tyler James Williams), a gadget-loving frequent traveler; the rich and snobby Grace (Gina Mantegna); the tomboyish Donna (Quinn Shephard); and the chubby "Beef" (Brett Kelly). Pursued by the disgruntled Passenger Relations Manager Mr. Porter (Lewis Black), the kids go on a wild adventure through all corners of the airport to not only have a good time but to save Christmas for everyone.
Unaccompanied Minors is slightly more than just a kids movie - it's a sugar high for grown ups, too, at least those who can sit back and enjoy the childish humor. Director Paul Feig puts together an exceptionally coherent and effective family comedy adventure perfect for the holiday season. He takes a very structured approach to the story at hand, similar to the methodology that goes into creating a good half-hour television episode, and expands it into a solid 90 minutes. Like a kid on a sugar rush, the story is exciting and thrilling to watch from beginning to end. Feig doesn't often step far out of the bounds of believability and maintains a minimally tacky and much rather enjoyable family film.
Among an outstanding cast is the irascible comedian Lewis Black who atones for the summer flop Accepted with a redeeming turn in Unaccompanied Minors. Black, who claims to use the word "fuck" as "a comma" in his stand-up acts, delivers PG-rated but still funny lines to great comedic effect. Additionally the wonderful young ensemble cast provides the best performance of any group of youngsters this year. Dyllan Christopher (below, left) leads the way, resembling a younger Jesse Eisenberg from 2005's The Squid and the Whale, both in appearance and acting capabilities.
I honestly haven't had this much fun at a family-oriented movie since I was a kid myself. Most family films today have exaggerated and ridiculous stories that are rightly booed by critics all around but that make enough money to fuel the demand for more. With Unaccompanied Minors, Feig and his great team of actors and writers have put together an unforgettable Christmas film unlike many others I've seen, with nods to other youth-power films like The Breakfast Club. I truly laughed quite happily at many of Black's lines, the kids' lines, and all the hilarious, energetic happenings that made this Christmas adventure so great.
If you're in the mood for a lighthearted Christmas comedy, Unaccompanied Minors is a great find. With its fun story and characters, it evokes pleasant memories from days past -- those of you who loved kids-against-grownups slapstick like Home Alone will be particularly happy. It is the best family comedy so far this Christmas season, packing a sack lunch of energetic and laugh-out-loud fun. A great cast, solid directing, and a hot-chocolate-warming story are the backbone to what makes this so extraordinary. Adults and children alike will find something worthwhile in Unaccompanied Minors.