Evil in 'Good Son' Seen as Good, Clean Fun

Lynn Smith is a staff writer for The Times' View section

In "The Good Son," 10-year-old Mark has to spend winter break with relatives and discovers that his cousin (Macaulay Culkin) is a psychopath who preys on just about anything that moves. (Rated R)

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Can any fan of the "Home Alone" movies really buy Macaulay Culkin as a psychopath? Scene: Culkin tries to look tough as he lights up a cigarette.

Audience reaction: "Oh, how cuuuuute!!"

Scene: Culkin tries to talk tough, warning his cousin, "Don't (expletive) with me."

Audience reaction: Bursts of spontaneous, sustained laughter.

But no matter. Kids who can't get enough sweaty-palm stories about evil praised the stars and the film, especially its cliffhanger ending, completely forgiving and forgetting Culkin's immutable cherubic persona.

On opening night in Orange County, an usher was keeping packs of unaccompanied tween-agers at bay outside the theater at Fashion Island. The standing-room-only audience was filled with more youngsters (with parents) and what seemed to be the entire sophomore class of Newport Beach High School.

They gasped, "Oh no!" as Culkin pushed the envelope of meanness, attempting, just for starters, to murder a pet cat. They recoiled, going "Eeeeuuuuwww!" at the mostly suggested gore, such as a blood-soaked sack. They yelled, "Go! Go! Go Mark!" as Mark attempted to escape danger and save others. They cheered the melodramatic resolution.

Three friends--Adam Horowitz, Jason Palda, and Scott Peters--all 12, thought it was greatly amusing.

"It was better than 'Home Alone,' " Adam said. "It showed how the kid was evil. It's kind of fun--your heart is in your stomach."

"You end up out of your seat, it's so suspenseful," Jason said.

"I liked it a lot," said Scott, a big fan of such horror movies as "It," and such books as "Lord of the Flies." He likes them, he said, because they're "more realistic."

Gentler PG-type movies such as "Rookie of the Year" are "fake," Adam said.

Was anyone provoked by the notion that some kids can act in an R-rated movie that other kids can't see without adults? Nah.

Did they find Culkin believable as a bad seed? Absolutely.

"Mark was good, too," Scott said.

Some kids found a few loose ends in the plot, such as an incomplete explanation of how and why Culkin's character became so disturbed. And I wondered how a child's dementia could come as a surprise to his parents after 10 years.

Overall, the three friends gave the film 4 1/2 stars out of five.

"At the beginning, it was slow," Adam said. Scott agreed: "One scene would be filled with action, and the next two wouldn't. Then the next one would."

And Adam said he wasn't really cool with the suggested scenes of gore. He much prefers to be shown what happened. Did the animal, for instance, die right away? Or just bleed to death?

Twelve-year-old minds want to know.

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