The Good Son (1993): Why Child Actors Can’t Drive a Story or An Unintended Comedy

The Good Son

“The  Good Son,” is a movie I chose because it was one of the bad movies requested to be reviewed on my facebook…and suffice to say it is bad. The movie stars a young Elijah Wood and Macaulay Culkin in a screenplay that was written by Ian McEwan (one of my favorite authors) and directed by Joseph Ruben.

The premise is a young boy named Mark is taken in by his Aunt and Uncle after his Father goes abroad on a business trip (literally right after his wife has died) after his mother’s death and from there has to deal with his psychopathic cousin named Henry.

Here is the assessment of the film:

Pros: The unintended Comedy – One of the few good things I can say about this film is that it has some funny moments…these are largely because both the kids and adults can’t act so serious moments end up coming off as strange and outlandish. For example, Henry shooting a dog, Henry’s threats to his sister, Mom and Mark and others. “Home Alone,” Culkin just isn’t scary. This is one reason I think putting kids in leading roles is a bad idea, most cannot act and it just comes off as funny when attempts at drama are made.

Okay: The Music – The music tries, but it is still standard early 90’s fair. It isn’t bad (there are a lot of other bad things), but the music isn’t one of them. It is just forgettable.

The Cinematography – There are some moments that are good, such long shots over a cemetery, but there are some bad ones too (every forest running shot) so in the end it just ends up being okay. It doesn’t lend itself to creating tension…the actors don’t either.

Cons: The acting – The acting is absolutely terrible in this. From the Aunt and Uncle who make Keanu in the “Matrix” look and sound expressive…to Elijah Wood and Culkin who come off as trying way too hard. They don’t seem believable and all they have is the music to help them to look as if they are believable. The other issue is the script…which doesn’t help them.

The Writing – Ian McEwan is a great writer, this is not great writing. It is a shame that they chose to make the kids so young, the idea would have worked better with the creepy cousin thing with one being older (High School looking actors), instead we have little kids trying their best and flailing. Most of the script is telling us and not showing us…though we get a few moments of showing, it just isn’t enough since it doesn’t go anywhere. Ian McEwan has had some stories that were okay, and at best this screenplay would have been that…but because of the presentation, it becomes a con.

The Ending – In the end the mother makes a choice of choosing her new adopted son Mark (who has creepily imprinted on his Aunt as being his new Mother since his Father just left him) or Henry. She obviously chooses Mark since Henry had tried to kill her seconds before and even gloated about it. It doesn’t lead anywhere and doesn’t feel like a choice. So Mark finds a new family? That wouldn’t have happened if his father had been an actual father and stuck around. Plus his adopted family isn’t much better, what with all the negligence in this movie.

This movie is funny in how it tries to be a tense horror film. There was no tension and no horror. If you are looking for a movie that misses the point of it’s premise and want to see a young Elijah Wood, check it out. But if you are looking for quality, avoid this like the plague. Joseph Ruben did not know how to cast or direct horror films or thrillers based off this movie.

My Score for this film is 3 / 10, and those points only exist because of unintended hilarity of this entire film which was the only thing keeping it from becoming boring.

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