Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Airport Christmas

Unaccompanied Minors
Director: Paul Feig
Cast: Tyler James Williams, Wilmer Valderrama, Lewis Black, Paget Brewster, Rob Cordrry
Released: December 8, 2006

Much like Home Alone was a Christmas movie targeted towards me, a kid in the early '90s; Unaccompanied Minors was a Christmas movie targeted towards kids in the mid 2000s. Both have children wreaking havoc among adults, but while Home Alone is considered a classic Christmas movie, this one did not really stand up to the test of time and you never hear about it being a beloved Christmas movie. In fact, you wouldn't know this was a Christmas movie just by looking at the title (that's probably why they make the "o" in "Minors" look like a wreath). Now it could be beloved to the kids who grew up in the mid 2000s, but there is nothing about this movie that makes it join the ranks of the greatest Christmas movies of all time.

Unaccompanied Minors is about a group of young teens who meet when they are snowed in at an airport on Christmas Eve. We meet the four of them before the have met each other. There's Charlie (the only young person of the cast I was familiar with. He's played by Tyler James Williams, who is from Everybody Hates Chris) who lives on the east coast (I believe he says he's from Massachusetts). There's a weird scene where he's with his dad, about to meet Santa at the mall, but he ends up fainting because he apparently does this every year when he meets Santa. Keep in mind that Charlie is no younger than twelve. And then hid dad faints? WTF is going on here? We also meet rich girl, Grace, who lives in the "north"; rebellious androgynous Donna who lives in the "south" (her mom is played by Kristin Wiig in a blink and you'll miss it scene); and last but least, we meet Spencer and his bratty kid sister, Catherine, who live in the "West" (most likely Southern California). At first I thought Spencer was played by Jesse Eisenberg, but he would have been way too old to be in this. I listened to a podcast review of this movie and they kept referring to this character as "Jesse Eisenberg" which was hilarious.

We really only know Spencer and Catherine's backstory: they are flying to Pennsylvania to spend Christmas with their father. (I guess that family doesn't care about Christmas Eve if they're flying out on the 24th). They have to switch planes at the Hoover International Airport (not a real airport; I looked it up). According to whoever wrote the Wikipedia entry, it is located in D.C., but that can't be right because we see Catherine take out a NORAD map of where and when Santa will make his stops. Apparently this airport will be one of his stops (since when does Santa visit airports?) and judging from the map, it looks like the airport is located in Minnesota. It's a bit hard to tell because the words "Hoover Intl. Airport" stretches out from South Dakota and Minnesota and even touches the border of Iowa. Since this is an international airport, it would have to be in the biggest city in this area, Minneapolis. They don't really make it clear, but considering there is a huge snowstorm, Minnesota makes a lot of sense, plus we'll get another little clue why this is probably where the airport is located later on.

Spencer and Catherine meet a TSA agent named Zach (played by Wilmer Valderrma aka Fez) who is going to stay with them during the layover. The kid notice the airport isn't adorned for Christmas aside from some very minuscule decorations and he explains that his boss, Mr. Porter, isn't into Christmas decorations or Christmas in general.

Mr. Porter (Lewis Black) is in a great mood because it's his first Christmas off in fifteen years and he's planning to spend it in Hawaii, but when he's about to board the plane, the gate closes and the flight is cancelled due to snow. In fact, all the flights are cancelled and Zach takes Spencer and Catherine to the Unaccompanied Minors room where all the kids 17 and under who are traveling by themselves are being kept. Oh. My. God. This would be my worst nightmare; even as a kid, I would absolutely hate this. The room is full of screaming kids who are running around and throwing food. There are two frazzled flight attendants who are in charge of watching them, but they leave when they see Zach has arrived. I definitely don't blame them!

They want to keep the kids confined to this room so that means not letting them out even to use the restroom (even though there is a bathroom in the room, but it soon becomes inoperable because some dumb kid flushed his cell phone down the toilet due to a bet and it overflowed), but when Zach becomes pelted with snack and drinks, the door is no longer guarded and Spencer leaves the room followed closely by the other kids we met in the first scene, plus a fat kid, Beef (please tell me that's not his real name), who doesn't talk much and has an Aquaman action figure who seems to be his only friend.

All the kids go on their own little grown up adventure now that they are by themselves in the airport. Spencer decides to get a bite to eat and we see Mindy Kaling as the waitress. Seeing that Paul Feig directed some episodes of The Office, it doesn't surprise me to see cast members make cameos in this. Grace uses her High Flyer's Club card to enter a swanky part of the airport where she gets a massage and gets something to eat which includes fancy cheese and caviar. Okay, I don't care if you're rich or not, no kid would ever eat caviar. No human should want to eat caviar. It is disgusting. Yes, I've had it before, and I don't understand the appeal. It was the first and last time I ever ate it. It's a little bit funny because after that scene it transitions back to Zach where he's sitting at the restaurant and orders nachos, an actual food an actual kid would actually eat. He tells Mindy Kaling that his mom never lets him eat nachos or drink soda, so he orders those. When she tells him her mom never let her eat mozzarella sticks, he orders those too.  When he gets the bill, he leaves her an IOU note on his napkin (the bill was for $75! How much stuff did he order?!) and that she should e-mail his dad for payment and provides a gmail.com address to reach him. What? Is his dad going to use Pay Pal to send the money? He also mentions that he left his mozzarella sticks for her. Why would anyone want his cold mozzarella sticks? Charlie plays with all the gadgets at The Sharper Image, which includes sticking a nose trimmer gadget in his nose and turning it on. Gawd, kids are disgusting! Donna steals one of the little cars they use to transport old ladies and people who can't get around at the airport. Beef goes into the emergency equipment room (which surprisingly is unlocked). One by one, the kids get caught by security and have to escape them before they are brought back to the room of doom. Donna, driving the go-kart, picks up Spencer and the other kids. I thought Grace had a clever, but ballsy way of escaping security: she joins a couple with their son and acts like she's part of their family and puts her arms around the young boy and tells him, "Hey, bro." Lucky for her, the parents of the boy just look at her and start speaking in German. They don't know what's going on.

So these five kids on a go-kart are driving through the crowded airport, probably no more than five mph, ten at tops and there's about five out of shape security officers who can't even reach them! They are eventually surrounded by more security officers, including the mean old grinch, Mr. Porter, and brought back to the room where all the other kids (including Catherine) have been sent to a lodge. He tells the other kids they won't be going there because of the blizzard. If that's the case, then how did all the other kids get there? Wasn't it snowing when the room was chaotic and full of screaming kids? There's really no good reason why the five remaining kids can't go to the lodge; Mr. Porter just wants to punish them for escaping the room. He tells them they will stay in this room (which is a disgusting mess) and that Zach will watch them.

They kids concoct a plan to escape once again because Spencer needs to get to the lodge because he promised his sister that Santa would know where she is and leave her the doll she wants for Christmas. Or something. They call B.J. Novak (the other Office alum), who works at the information center and tell him they have a message for Zach, who in turn, is paged to the information desk. While Zach is gone, the kids hide in the rafters and he comes running back after B.J. Novak tells him a group of kids had the message "Goodbye" for him. He thinks they have escaped and runs out, leaving the door unlocked so the kids can escape. They must have used Grace's cell phone to place the call.

Beef tells Spencer he'll get his sister a Christmas tree and runs off, leaving the remaining four. I'm pretty sure there's already a Christmas tree at the lodge. Doe this mean this kid is the Chunk of the group since he is now separated from the other kids who are having the adventure?

Charlie tells the others they need to go to the baggage claim area in the northeast part of the airport because that's where security is the most lax. He knows this because he flies out of this airport every week. EVERY. WEEK. HE FLIES OUT OF THIS AIRPORT EVERY WEEK. Oh my God, this poor child. His parents are divorced, so his mother must live far away from Massachusetts. Even Mr. Porter knows who he is and was very disappointed in him since he called Charlie his "model underage flyer." But, dear God, I can't imagine being twelve years old and having to fly every single week. I can understand holidays and summer vacation, but EVEY WEEK? How does school work for this kid? Does he fly out after school on Friday, stay with his mom for a weekend, then head back Sunday night? This is no way for a child to live! I want to know where his mom lives and why she lives so far away from her son that he has to FLY OUT EVERY WEEK to see her! As someone who doesn't like flying (because of all the hassle), this would be my worst nightmare.

The kids distract the three or so security officers blocking the door by letting out a dog in its kennel. Mr. Porter hears the commotion and the kids hide in the baggage claim area. Charlie hides inside a suitcase that he's somehow able to fit into even though it's already packed. He is also able to zip it closed from the inside to hide from Mr. Porter, but will not be able to open it back up for some reason. He sees the suitcase on the floor and puts it on the conveyor belt to send it to the unclaimed baggage area, sending Charlie on a grand adventure that should have killed him, or at the very least, left him brain dead. Also, I find it hard to believe the two security officers who pick up the suitcase don't find it suspiciously heavy. There's a 12-year-old boy in there for god's sake!

They all end up safe and sound in the unclaimed baggage area which is huge and has fifty years of unclaimed baggage. At the beginning of the movie, we saw a commercial for an unclaimed baggage sale at this airport. As the saleswoman put it, "If someone's lost it, you can buy it!" And that's exactly what the kids do: they start playing with all the toys and gadgets and take what they want. Spencer sees a really ugly doll that looks to be from the '50s with a hard plastic body and a frilly purple dress. He knows it will be the perfect thing for his sister; guess Catherine didn't have a specific doll in mind that she wanted. Charlie finds four Walkie Talkies (complete with batteries!) that, believe it or not, will come in handy later on in the film.

While the kids are playing with their toys, then later having a dance party to a jazz song (cuz 2000s kid love jazz!), they are spotted by Porter on the security guard and have to escape him and the other security guards once again. They head outside where they slide down a giant hill on a canoe. The lodge they need to get to is at the bottom. Zach is the only one who has caught up with them, so they take him with them because he knows too much about their plan. Or something. Porter and the other security guards follow suit and take down items to slide down the hill: a kayak, a tire, a grill, among others. I'm pretty sure this "hill" they're sledding down is actually a mountain because it goes on and on and on. It's pretty obvious they shot the kids and Wilmer Valderrama on the canoe in front of a green screen. Of course the kids arrive safely in front of the lodge while Porter and the other security guards either crash or fly into some deep dark abyss.

So I'm thinking, great, the kids have reached the lodge, the bad guys are all gone, and now Spencer can give his sister the Christmas she wants. So that must mean the movie is about to wrap up, right? Nope! Wrong! We haven't even reached the one hour mark yet and there's still thirty-five minutes left!

Spencer is able to give the doll to his sleeping sister who had had to endure her own hell at the place by having to hang out with the granddaughter of one of the flight attendants (played by Jessica Walter aka Lucille Bluth) who's only a few years older than her and treats her like a living doll. Porter comes back and takes them back to the airport where he tells them instead of being confined to the large room, they'll now each have their separate private rooms. He also tells him that he's bumped the four of them from their flights so the people who are waiting in the airport can go ahead of them since they haven't gotten in trouble. Uh, he does realize he only has four people he can let go early, right?

As you can imagine, this is when the Walkie-Talkies come in handy. They can each communicate with each other in their individual cells. Porter has their security footage on a TV, but I guess he doesn't seem to notice they're all talking to each other (it's not like they make a point to hide it from him). I guess he figures it's harmless as long as they can't leave. You think a tough-ass like him would want to keep the kids from communicating with each other.

Grace, the rich girl, tells the others she lives twenty minutes from the airport. If you remember, she was the one from the "North", so her being from Minnesota would make sense. I bet she's from Edina, that Cake Eater. (Shout out to The Mighty Ducks). She flew in from boarding school and thought it would be more fun to stay at an airport than hang out with her nanny in her McMansion while her parents were in Paris. Girl, are you crazy? I bet you have a ton of fun things to do in your huge house. Who would want to hang out in an airport?

The kids concoct another plan to escape their cells and it involves recording themselves on their Walkie-Talkies, switching the video over to the security camera, then leaving through the vent. Crawling through a vent in movies/TV shows is one of the biggest tropes there is as I bet nobody in real life could even fit through a vent! These vents are so wide and spacious that two of them can crawl next to each other at the same time! Of course the plan goes perfectly without a hitch. They end up in the room where Mr. Porter keeps all the Christmas decorations. (Question: why does he even have these if he hates decorating for Christmas?) Around this time Beef returns with a Christmas tree that he traded his Aquaman action figure for and Spener comes up with the brilliant idea of decorating the airport for Christmas so when everyone wakes up, they'll get a nice Christmas surprise..bet you didn't see that coming! I had to laugh when Donna replaces one of Mr. Porter's tiny Christmas tree stickers with a bigger one, but it really wasn't that much bigger.

Mr. Porter and the kids come to an understanding and we learn that he doesn't like Christmas because his wife left him five years ago. They really only decorate one main area of the airport, including the tree, where they lead everybody to on Christmas morning. It's a nice sentiment and all, but truth be told, if I were in that group of passengers, I would not be impressed by the Christmas display. It's just a bunch of cheap plastic doo-dads. The kids from the lodge also gather with them and Catherine is reunited with her brother. Mr. Porter redeems himself by dressing up as Santa and surprising all the kid, including Catherine.

Mr. Porter tells the kids they'll be the first to leave when the weather has cleared and Spencer invites Grace to spend Christmas with him and his sister at their dad's house. Since they're both the older kids of the group, there's been a little spark between them. They also try to make Donna and Charlie into a thing, (she kisses Charlie at the end) since they're around the same age, but why do they need to couple up both pairs of kids? Also, shouldn't the kiss have happened between Spencer and Grace? They're the ones who have been serious quasi-flirting with each other this whole time.

So while all this is going on, the movie jumps to a scene with the parents of Spencer and Catherine. We see their mom (played by Paget Brewster) fretting about her kids being snowed in. She can't reach them because they don't have a cell phone (her ex-husband convinced her not to let them get one because they're bad for the environment). She's staying with her sister (played by Teri Garr) who is scarily into Christmas. Her yard and house is chock full of Christmas decorations and, according to her, she still has six boxes of lights she needs to put up. (And it's Christmas Eve! What's the point of even putting them up?) Her house looks like one of those little shops that has nothing but Christmas memorabilia. She offers a cup of hot chocolate to her sister, who says she's already had three and that it's 80 degrees. There's a terrible joke where the sister thinks she has a defective M&M because it has a "W" on it. This is really terrible humor, even kids have to groan at that, right?

The kids' dad (played by Rob Corddry) receives a call from his ex-wife and tells her he'll pick them up. This guy is very into the environment and drives a small dinky car he calls a biomobile that only takes a certain "vegetarian" type of gasoline. Of course there's noway that car can make it from Pennsylvania to (possibly) Minnesota (damn...if that airport is located in Minneapolis, that's quite a long drive!) A mechanic helps him out and lets him borrow a Humvee to drive which scandalizes him and he hopes the guys from the Sierra Club don't see him driving that monstrosity. (Those are pretty obnoxious vehicles).  He reaches the airport on Christmas morning, just in time to surprise his kids.

While this isn't the worst Christmas movie out there (just turn on the Hallmark Chanel to find those; hell, even Netflix is churning out some Christmas crap), it's defintely not going to be considered a holiday classic anytime soon and there are better movies to watch during this time of the year!

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