• U.S.

CINEMA: Heart Attack

2 minute read
Richard Schickel

Now that Macaulay Culkin is a teenager, vulnerability, the quality that has prevented his wise child from turning into a wise guy, comes harder for him. Now that Ted Danson is a movie star, or thinks he is, stupidity comes harder for him. Danson’s character in Getting Even with Dad is supposed to be an inept thief, but the actor doesn’t want to dig into dumbness, which is where the laughs, if any, might be. Untutored is the worst he’ll allow himself to seem. Untutored, but capable of sensitivity, of love, of being a ’90s beau ideal, if given a chance.

Providing that chance is the job of the half-pint, in a movie so desperately maneuvered that it’s possibly unfair to blame Danson for defending himself against it. Culkin plays Timmy, the son whom widowed Ray hasn’t seen for three years, and he arrives just as his dad and two confederates are about to rob a coin collection. This they manage with a cleverness that belies their alleged incompetence. But the boy steals the loot, and will give it back only if Ray will act the good father for a week — you know, ball games, amusement parks, miniature golf. Father and son bond, of course, and along the way Timmy does a little matchmaking, helping Pop and the cop who’s trailing him (Glenne Headly) fall in love.

Timmy is a calculating little guy, the creation of calculating big guys. Like everyone else in the movie, he appears to have been morphed into existence by people who aren’t writing or directing in the usual sense of those words but are operating a computer whose keypad is marked with a few simple signs: sentiment, sweetness, lovable mischievousness. The coldness with which these filmmakers pursue warmth is — no other word for it — bone chilling.

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