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Saturday, February 4, 2012

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 56 - The Good Son (1993)

The Good Son (1993;
Twentieth Century Fox)

I apologize for the long delay between posts. I'm going to work hard to finish this list as soon as possible. At least I have most of them written already, so it shouldn't take too awfully long. So, without further ado (almost three months worth), here is what I think of the film that began the slow decline of Macaulay Culkin's run as the quintessential child actor of the early 90's.

Bad movies span the entire spectrum of film, from genre to genre in many tones. Let's explore the darker corners of that spectrum.  While My Favorite Martian was bad but harmless, the Good Son is a vile and cruel film that fails to approach its material with any remorse.  It is the story of a young boy who spends the summer with his aunt and uncle and their psychotic son.  The Good Son is sort of like every psycho-next-door movie ever (Single White Female, Pacific Heights) except the crazy person is a thirteen-year-old boy.

Mark (Elijah Wood) is stuck with his family in New England during the Summer months and during that time befriends his cousin Henry (Culkin).  However, slowly over the course of the summer Henry begins to show more and more psychotic behavior and his parents are oblivious to the kid’s evil actions until we near the very end of the film.  This is one of those strange movies that has characters that do not seem to have existed before the plot of the film.  They aren’t fleshed out, they’re just there.  Nothing really seemed to have happened to any of these characters before the screenplay dictated the opening scene. How come Henry has only exhibited his evil behavior towards his cousin even though his sister is right there?  How come Mark doesn’t just tell Henry’s parents (or at least some other adult) about the things Henry is doing?  It just doesn’t make sense.

Elijah Wood is not really doing much except reacting to Culkin’s evil antics but Culkin was actually pretty good at playing bad.  The problem is the character of Henry is evil the way a cartoon character is evil.  There is little to no motive for anything he does and we get countless shots of him staring hatefully or giving a little bond villain grin, obviously trying to channel the closing shot of Psycho with Anthony Perkins giving the most sinister grin in film history.  Not even the most crafty little kid can be this evil and just decide to show it to his cousin and only his cousin during this random Summer.  Which brings me to the thing that I hate about this movie: it could have ended at the hour mark.

This movie, like many of the films in its genre, uses its own characters’ stupidity to perpetuate its story and it keeps this game going until the film’s awful ending in which Mark and Henry are hanging onto Henry’s mother’s arms while dangling from a cliff.  Who does she choose?  Mark of course, because he’s the good guy and Henry is evil, even though his actions throughout this film have been visibly evil and nothing has been done about it up to this point.  This is a nonsensical film from the director of Money Train (Joeseph Ruben directing a nonsensical story?  What a shocker!), and it shows.  This movie is gratuitous, reveling in this child’s despicable acts throughout the film until the movie decides to chose good over evil.  I have a feeling this movie was meant to be symbolic of the Eternal Struggle but it fails because it is so poorly written and the fact that this kid is behaving like this without anyone but this one kid noticing is really just inconceivable.

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