From The Published Archives: The Good Son

When I attended Delta Secondary School between the years 1989 and 1993, I made it a point to pursue my creative interests through numerous clubs. After a year of classroom training, I played Alto Saxophone for Delta’s Concert Band beginning in Grade 10. (I played second guitar in the Jazz Band my first year, then, wisely, switched to the Alto Sax. Let’s just say that Slash has never lost a night of sleep because of this.)

Being interested in pursuing an announcing career, I joined D.R.B.S. (Delta’s Radio Broadcasting System), which was just a fancy name for the P.A. System. That was a cool gig, and so was writing for the school newsmagazine, OMNIA, and its supplementary newsletter, the cutely named Om-Lette.

After graduating in the summer of 1993, I was ready for Mohawk College. No more sax playing for me. Writing and announcing became my sole extracurricular interests.

In September, I bumped into fellow Delta grad, Carl Pissey (yes, that’s his last name and I’m sure he’s changed it), who was a fellow announcer in D.R.B.S. He was with this girl (whose name I don’t remember now) and I told them I was looking for CHMR, Mohawk Cable FM. They took me into the station, introduced me to the station manager and handed me a volunteer sheet to fill out. (I would be a DJ at the station for the next 5 years. In 1998, during my last year, it finally became a full-fledged FM station.)

Still interested in becoming a movie critic, I checked out Mohawk’s student newspaper, The Satellite. I found out the hard way that they had a specific protocol for submissions. You had to get your pieces in by Friday. They published every Tuesday and so, submitting your writing on Monday was just too late (as I discovered when I submitted typewritten copies of my reviews of True Romance and Boxing Helena. They’re supposed to be saved on a disc and then handed in.) Having seen how much time and effort is needed on Monday to get the paper ready for publication, it was a reasonable rule.

Once I knew what was expected, I was fine. I just wish, in retrospect, I had written a lot more and got published more. Most of the time, when I wanted to review a movie, I would have to pay for a ticket (like everybody else) to see that particular movie, which wasn’t a big deal. (Not once was I given a free pass during my Delta years.) So, I was spoiled by my first assignment. Entertainment Editor Brad Lickman handed me a free pass to see The Good Son. There was an advance screening scheduled for September 23, 1993 at the Centre Mall Cinemas. I took my mom with me to the screening that night.

It was a big deal to me, this assignment. I didn’t want to screw it up. It was exhilarating to go from writing reviews for OMNIA and Om-Lette at the high school level to doing the exact same thing at an actual College paper. It was an advancement, in my mind.

I wrote a quick review, saved it to disc and handed it in. When it was published on October 5, 1993 on page 11 of The Satellite, I was pissed off. Lickman’s editing skills did not impress me.

I wrote a numbered list of observations I made throughout the film. The numbers were removed and as a result, it undermined what I was trying to do stylistically.

But the biggest annoyance was this concluding paragraph which I didn’t even write:

“Despite good reviews, I would personally recommend at least waiting for The Good Son to be released on video, and even then you may be disappointed.”

I would’ve never written such nonsense. As you will read shortly, the movie is not worth seeing at all. Not in a theatre, not on DVD, not on TV and certainly not on an airplane. I confronted Lickman about this change (there’s something about people screwing with my writing that really gets me fired up) and told him that I didn’t approve of what he did to my review. I don’t remember yelling at him or anything but I certainly expressed to him that I wasn’t happy with what he wrote. He added thoughts to the piece that didn’t belong to me. It was way over the line for an editor to do that. To his credit, he never did that ever again. I’m glad I spoke up. (During my second year at Mohawk, he became the Managing Editor. As long as he didn’t tinker with my writing, that was fine with me.)

Needless to say, that paragraph has been excised from the review you’re about to read. I’ve also made some edits of my own, changing tenses here and there, rephrasing the beginning of a sentence, just little things I should’ve caught on my own 13 years ago. Essentially, this is what appeared in the paper.

This was my very first published piece in The Satellite. It’s far from perfect but it represented a step forward in my writing.  For the first time, I wrote a proper review. Unlike my OMNIA/Om-Lette pieces where I wrote endlessly about the plot and only a line or two about the quality of the film, this piece is filled with my thoughts and feelings about the movie from beginning to end.  Even though it’s awfully succinct and doesn’t describe the plot in painstaking detail, it’s better than anything I wrote during my Delta period. 

By the way, it was originally accompanied with a still of a toque-wearing Macauley Culkin (the villain in the movie) from Home Alone 2. You know that scene where he bumps into the two hapless burglars (Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci) and just starts screaming his head off? That’s where the photo came from. It must’ve been on file or something. (The Satellite received production information from film companies all the time but we must not have gotten anything for The Good Son.)

The best part was the caption: “Macaulay Culkin goes psychotic in The Good Son.”

THE GOOD SON
By Dennis Earl
Entertainment Staff 

While watching Joseph Rubin’s The Good Son, there were many things I noticed. First, I have seen this movie countless times before in other “intruder-from-hell” thrillers, such as Unlawful Entry and Single White Female. Henry is not a difficult role for Macaulay Culkin to play since the character is merely the evil incarnation of Kevin MacAllister (Home Alone). Instead of setting traps for moronic burglars, Culkin kills a dog, breaks windows, causes a ten car pile-up and frames his cousin who is played convincingly by Elijah Wood.

There is not one original line of dialogue or a fresh scene in the film. Director Joseph Rubin (Sleeping With The Enemy) has an amazing knowledge of recycled, overused cliches including the villain’s death scene.

During the screening I attended the audience laughed at Culkin’s performance rather than crying in fear. Once Wood realizes that Culkin is not what he appears to be, he notifies his father and informs him of the terrible sins Henry has committed. However, Wood’s father never shows up for the rest of the film – hello!

Another scene in the movie has Culkin and Wood going to a bridge to have some so-called fun. Culkin drops a dummy out onto the highway and causes a ten car accident. Amazingly, no one sees who committed the prank even though the hero and villain are clearly visible during the entire incident and don’t flee until the horror subsides. Also, we never quite understand why Culkin attempts to kill his sister or his mother after Wood comes to visit.

The main problem with The Good Son is that it doesn’t have a solid screenplay. There are loose ends all over the place and many of them are not resolved by the end of the film. Poor directing, bad acting and a weak ending also contribute to this faulty flick. The only bright spot in the film is Elijah Wood. He delivers the only credible performance portraying the only intelligent character in the movie.

 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, June 11, 2006
10:03 p.m.
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Published in: on June 11, 2006 at 10:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

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