Picks and Pans Review: The Good Son

updated 10/04/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/04/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Macaulay Culkin, Elijah Wood, Daniel Hugh Kelly, Wendy Crewson

A few weeks after Wood's mother dies of cancer, his father (David Morse) is summoned to Toyko on business. Though reluctant to leave the grieving boy, he agrees to let him stay with his aunt and uncle in Maine. After all, there's a therapist within easy walking distance, and a warmly welcoming cousin (Culkin). As his aunt (Crewson) puts it, watching the two boys bond, "He's going to be fine."

No, he's not. Culkin may look angelic, but he is definitely not a kid with whom you would like to be home alone. He is driven by an unseemly curiosity about death, questioning Wood about his mother's demise. He has concocted a homemade weapon that shoots steel bolts, and a dummy that he throws onto a roadway in hopes of causing a (preferably fatal) accident. And then there was that mysterious bathtub drowning of his younger brother.

Wood sees Culkin in action and tries desperately to warn his aunt, his uncle and his therapist about the bad seed in their midst. But screen adults are just boneheaded beyond belief. Or maybe it's just The Good Son that's boneheaded. It offers not one fresh turn of plot, nor the faintest tinge of subtlety or surprise. And the 13-year-old Culkin is creepy without ever quite managing to be frightening. His dad-manager. Kit Culkin, reportedly refused to let him appear in Home Alone 2 unless he was guaranteed the title role in The Good Son. Father doesn't always know best. (R)

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