Richie Rich

1994, Movie, PG, 94 mins

Review

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Milking his little-boy cuteness for what might be the last time, Macaulay Culkin plays comic book hero Richie Rich, the richest boy in the world. While the filmmakers haven't bothered to come up with a novel approach to very familar material, the final product is a reasonably entertaining film that will interest children without putting their parents to sleep.

Twelve-year-old Richie Rich seems to be the boy who has everything: he lives in a mansion complete with a butler/chaperon, Cadbury (Jonathan Hyde), a bevy of sophisticated toys, and a private McDonalds; he has a great relationship with his parents--particularly his father (Edward Herrmann), who can contact his son from anywhere in the world with a satellite-driven "Dadlink"; and, of course, he's the heir to the vast Rich family riches. Still, his money has made him few real friends, and he longs to be able to participate in such "normal" activities as playing sandlot baseball with the local kids. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Richie, his father is having troubles of his own: his chief financial adviser, Lawrence Van Dough (John Larroquette), has had enough of his employer's philanthropic investments and charitable contributions, and has decided to kill Richie's parents so that he can become CEO of the company. When Mr. and Mrs. Rich (Christine Ebersole) go on a business trip, Richie uses the opportunity to make friends with the local kids by inviting them over to the mansion; Van Dough, too, sees an opportunity, and plants a bomb on the family plane. When the bomb goes off, the plane goes down, leaving the Riches stranded on a raft in the middle of the ocean.

Although Van Dough tries to take over the company, Richie claims his father's seat as CEO and manages to run the business smoothly. Convinced that he must dispose of the younger Rich as well as the elder, Van Dough plants bomb parts in Cadbury's room and sends the police an anonymous tip; with Cadbury implicated in the bombing, Van Dough assumes custody of Richie, has him sequestered in his room for security's sake, and once again assumes the helm of Rich Enterprises. Using the Dadlink, Richie discovers that his parents are alive and, with the help of his new friends and family inventor Professor Keenbean (Michael McShane), he escapes from the mansion, breaks Cadbury out of jail, and returns to foil Van Dough's plans.

The hero of a decades-old Harvey Comics series might seem an unlikely choice for a big-budget 1994 feature film adaptation, but RICHIE RICH effectively addresses universal themes--isolation, friendship, family, and old-fashioned good vs. evil--to transcend chronology. Apart from a few gadgets here and there, Richie relies upon his friends and his own ingenuity to get him out of trouble. Most of the cast turn in enjoyable performances--in particular Herrmann and Ebersole as Richie's parents, who remain pleasant and optimistic even in the middle of the ocean with little hope of rescue. Culkin, too, is palatable as Richie, though his HOME ALONE cuteness seems to be waning (along with his marketability: apart from the moderately-successful RICHIE RICH, Culkin's other 1994 screen projects--THE PAGEMASTER and GETTING EVEN WITH DAD--were disasters). In all, despite a few rough fight scenes, RICHIE RICH makes for serviceable family entertainment. (Violence.) leave a comment

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