Movie Mom

In “Unaccompanied Minors,” a group of young travelers are stranded in Chicago’s fictional Hoover Airport on Christmas Eve. Lead to a room full of other children but decidedly empty of Christmas spirit, five break away from the chaotic “rec room,” holding pen, prompting an airport-wide chase that fuels the rest of the film.

The kids all run for different reasons, some deeper and more touching than others (although that’s not saying much, as one youngster bolts in search of a bathroom). There’s even the rebel who resents the “rich kid” but turns out to be sticking around not because she has to, but because she wants to.

If this last part sounds at all familiar, it’s a safe bet the rest of the film will, too. It’s The Breakfast Club for middle schoolers with slightly lower-grade angst and a less memorable soundtrack.

It’s forgettable mutliplex fodder, but it does have occasional and even endearing moments of originality. Although “Minors” characters never really break from the teen-dramedy stereotypes, the likeable cast kicks the Home Alone-in-an-airport script up a notch. As a veteran writer for television’s cult favorite “Arrested Development” as well as “The Office,” director Paul Feig boosts a comedic pedigree the leaves the film with a few genuine laughs.

Parents should know that that while this film is a fairly harmless holiday comedy, it’s content at times is more appropriate for the middle-school crowd than for younger children. The children explore family dynamics and their own experiences with divorce. One character says of her parents: “They just don’t seem to like it when I’m around,” a conflict that is never quite resolved. Family is a major theme of the film, and although the characters remain optimistic, Feig’s overriding cynicism keeps the film from ever getting too emotionally satisfying.

An airline employee (Zach Van Bourke, played by Wilmer Valderrama), is clearly conflicted about letting the children be children while also enforcing the discipline his supervisor pressures him to enforce. Families who see this film might talk about the decisions Van Bourke makes, and how he negotiates is personal beliefs with his professional duties. Families should also discuss the roles of the parents in the film — what traits are portrayed as “good” in parents? What traits are presented as representative of “bad” parents? What prompts the children to talk about their feelings, and how do they become closer to each other by doing so? How might things change if the kids were to open up to their own families?

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy the holiday classic Home Alone, which is intended for roughly the same age group but contains more violence and more potentially scary scenes. Families might also appreciate 1993’s The Sandlot and 1985’s tale of adolescent teamwork and bonding, The Goonies.

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