Mix “The Breakfast Club” with “Home Alone” and you get “Unaccompanied Minors,” an agreeable, not-too-dumb kids’ comedy about a handful of 12-year-olds stranded by a blizzard at an airport on Christmas Eve. It’s a genius move, really: The target audience is too young to remember “Home Alone,” let alone “The Breakfast Club,” so the material might as well be brand-new!
The airport is the fictional Hoover International, set in an unnamed Midwestern state. (The film was shot in Salt Lake City, making it fun for a former Salt Laker such as myself to identify the sites used — the central library and the Salt Palace, mainly.) It’s the layover spot for thousands of last-minute travelers, including quite a few unaccompanied minors — kids flying without a parent or guardian, in layman’s terms. When the weather grounds all the flights, it’s up to the crusty airport manager, Oliver (Lewis Black, always a good choice for a character described as “crusty”), to keep the UMs safe and supervised.
Most of UMs are whisked away to a nearby hotel for the night, but several had escaped the confines of the UM room at the airport (which looks like a daycare center gone mad) when the transport was made. Those several are our heroes: normal kid Spencer (Dyllan Christopher), rich pretty girl Grace (Gina Mantegna), rebel girl Donna (Quinn Shephard), nervous nerd Charlie (Tyler James Williams, star of TV’s “Everybody Hates Chris”), and silent weirdo Beef (Bret Kelly). Having missed the shuttle to the hotel, they’re now forced to stay in the unaccompanied minors room all night, supervised by a young, hapless airport employee named Zach (Wilmer Valderrama).
But there’s a problem: Spencer’s bratty little sister DID go to the hotel, and he can’t leave her alone! He promised their mom he’d take care of her! The hotel is apparently within easy walking distance of the airport, so Spencer and his new friends band together to escape from Zach and Oliver and make their way to it.
(You ask: If the hotel is so close, why can’t someone just drive the kids over to it? Why do they have to stay at the airport? Is it punishment for missing the shuttle? Shh! You ask too many questions!)
The screenplay, by Jacob Meszaros and Mya Stark (the first feature credit for both of them), is nothing special. The kids perpetrate schemes that are increasingly slapsticky and increasingly less believable, and the Christmas schmaltz gets played up a lot near the end. But hey, ’tis the season, right? Besides, the director is Paul Feig, creator of TV’s “Freaks & Geeks” and a regular director of “The Office” and “Arrested Development.” That explains why cast members from those shows pop up all over the place, as do several performers from “Kids in the Hall” and “The Daily Show.” That’s a lot of cool street cred for a formulaic tween comedy, and if Feig is working below his usual cleverness level here (you gotta pay the bills, after all), at least he and the kids seem to be having fun doing it.
B- (1 hr., 29 min.; )