Pseudo-anarchist tweens are bound to love "Unaccompanied Minors," a clumsily made but disarming enough movie about the joys of getting away with everything.
Just in time for the holiday, hundreds of kids traveling solo are stranded at a fictional Chicago airport after a blizzard. Apparently there's an entire travel subculture of underage frequent fliers, and "Unaccompanied Minors" is a cartoon exposé. The movie concocts various obstacle courses for its five types -- Tyler James Williams (the adorable buppie nerd), Dyllan Christopher (the cute all-purpose nerd), Gina Mantegna (the rich hottie), Quinn Shephard (the tomboy), and Brett Kelly (the oaf) -- to escape the airport-security nincompoops.
In the process, the film crashes the slapstick of "Home Alone" into the youthful angst of "The Breakfast Club." Here, the kids raid the goodies in the vast unclaimed baggage room and sass the head of security -- played by the acerbic comedian Lewis Black, of all people -- because that's just what joint custody will do to a kid. A broken home has its advantages. As someone in this movie explains, "Divorced kids are more resourceful than others."
Their resourcefulness occasions frolic. Presumably, there's a big audience for sequences like an early one in which the tomboy commandeers an electric cart to plow through a crowded terminal. Whenever possible, unruliness is rewarded. Written by Jacob Meszaros and Mya Stark, the movie makes Black out to be the bad guy, even though at every turn he's never less than right -- he even corrects bad grammar -- and the kids are feloniously wrong. But since he hates Christmas, he's the villain -- and bad at his job.
The lackadaisical security qualifies the movie as a nostalgia piece. So does the inexplicable appearance of comic talents such as Teri Garr and three members of the Kids in the Hall. Also aboard as thankless ornaments on this plastic Christmas tree are Jessica Walter, B.J. Novak, and Wilmer Valderrama , who's reduced to a kid-pleasing "Ay carumba!" In addition to Black, who gets to do some characteristic ranting (I shudder to think about the spittle that surely hit this young cast), the film wastes other "Daily Show" associates like Rob Riggle and ex-correspondent Rob Corddry , although Corddry does have a few funny moments playing an eco-minded dad reduced to dashing through the snow in a Hummer to pick up his stranded kids.
Presumably, a lot of these adults are pals with the film's director, Paul Feig, who has written for or directed episodes of the stellar sitcoms on which a few of them have appeared ("Freaks and Geeks," "Arrested Development," "The Office" ), and some of the authentic warmth in those shows creeps into "Unaccompanied Minors," which gets better as it plods along. The young stars settle into their roles. Or rather: The kids' senses of entitlement become less irritating, especially Williams, who's the magnetic star of "Everybody Hates Chris."
Eventually, a surprising kind of matter-of-factness emerges, albeit in crude ways, like the one flatulence joke that, while played as a gag, achieves a certain identifiable realism: Hey, it happens. I never stopped rooting for Black to catch these punks. But I did stop caring that the movie is rigged for him to fail.