The Good Son

Ian McEwan’s original screenplay offers good possibilities for two separate moviesone about a 12-year-old (Elijah Wood) coping with the recent death of his mother and believing that his aunt (Wendy Crewson) is her reincarnation, the other about a 12-year-old spending time with a sadistic cousin (Macaulay Culkin) while his father is away. Unfortunately, despite the occasionally resourceful direction of Joseph Ruben (The Stepfather), each of these promising scenarios winds up getting in the way of the other. And the casting of Culkin is less clever than it initially might have seemed: he’s already been applauded for sadism and cruelty in the Home Alone movies, so asking us to find the same qualities disturbing here seems a bit of a stretch. There’s wonderful use made of a Maine port town, and Ruben gets a dizzying thrill or two out of overhead shots, but the conceptual overload finally prevents this from coming together (1993). (JR)

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