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MOVIE REVIEW : Hughes Makes a ‘Career’ Out of a Proven Formula

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In John Hughes’ “Home Alone,” Macaulay Culkin’s greatest fantasy was to have the house to himself. In “Career Opportunities,” which Hughes wrote and produced, and which Bryan Gordon directed, Frank Whaley plays a 21-year-old who still lives with his parents and brother and sister and doesn’t want to be abandoned.

When, as the night janitor, this small-town con artist finds himself locked inside a discount department store along with the runaway daughter (Jennifer Connelly) of the local bigwig, they open up to each other. It turns out that neither of them wants to be alone.

Is this fear of being alone a John Hughes fixation? Or is it just a way of cannibalizing himself? Is it just a coincidence that Hughes, a la “Home Alone,” works a pair of bumbling thieves into the movie (rated PG-13)?

Since this film was in the works before “Home Alone” was released, you can’t exactly accuse him of capitalizing on success. He predicted success. And he’s got the teen-pic formula down so pat that even a dreary picture like “Career Opportunities” (citywide) may end up a cash cow.

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As Jim Dodge, a kind of cut-rate Ferris Bueller, Whaley is peppy and gives evidence of being a far better actor than he’s allowed to be in this piece of dim juvenalia. (Check him out as the Vietnam vet in “Born on the Fourth of July”). Jennifer Connelly isn’t an actress exactly, but, looks-wise, she’s within hailing distance of the young Elizabeth Taylor.

There are worse people to be locked inside a movie with than these two, but they’re not given anything to do . You don’t want to hear about how they can’t relate to their fathers; you don’t want to hear about their fantasies of ditching the Midwest and jetting to L.A.

Los Angeles has enough trouble already without these two. When this pipsqueak con artist and his jailbait squeeze finally make it to Hollywood, the land of their dreams, the effect ought to be satiric. I’m afraid it isn’t.


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