THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1994, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Saturday, December 24, 1994 TAG: 9412230115 SECTION: DAILY BREAK PAGE: E5 EDITION: FINAL TYPE: Movie Review SOURCE: BY MAL VINCENT, MOVIE CRITIC LENGTH: Medium: 92 lines
WHEN RICHIE RICH, the richest kid in the world, spots a pimple on his face, there are worldwide repercussions. Even though his trustworthy butler, Cadbury, comments ``Congratulations, Sir,'' we aren't so sure this is positive.
To the onlooker, ``Richie Rich'' is a goodbye to little Mac.
This is most likely Macaulay Culkin's last outing as a fresh-faced little kid who delightfully gets the better of the adult world. Only a bushel of growth-retarding pills could stretch this career much longer. But it's been a good run.
Beginning with ``Home Alone,'' several Christmas seasons ago, Mac has been a box office bonanza. Kiddies loved to see him sock out adults with all manner of weapons. Sociologists, who complained mightily that ``Home Alone's'' success might inspire revolution in the land, have quieted down.
As a finale to Culkin's child-actor career, ``Richie Rich'' is pleasant and diverting enough, even if it has no imagination.
Richie is sort of the male counterpart to Little Orphan Annie, even though he's the natural son of a billionaire, not adopted by Daddy Warbucks.
Yet again, the movies try to convince us that it would be awful to be rich. To those whose one hope is the weekly Lottery ticket, the message is unconvincing. Richie's father, Edward Hermmann, has a fortune worth $70 billion.
In a refreshing change from the way current movies usually depict adults, Richie's parents are not spoiled, overbearing or evil. They actually seem to love each other. Mom, played by Christine Ebersole, is a laughably zany type who is more concerned about her clothes and accessories than anything else.
They're missing and presumed dead after the evil Lawrence Van Dough, played by John Larroquette, a bomb on their plane. When Richie takes over the family company's board room, Van Dough takes steps to get control from him.
It is to the embarrassment of the Emmy Awards that they keep giving awards every year or so to Larroquette. Here, he merely walks through the role, with no flair whatsoever.
Richie is dressed in three-piece suits and is a model child, by adult standards. He is well-mannered, smart and accepts his many duties - such as business classes. Reggie Jackson is his private baseball coach. His rich classmates have already learned to shred notes passed to each other.
He feels a need for less-privileged friends his own age. It is an indication of the movie's values that he uses his money, expensive toys and hamburgers to win them.
Rated PG, the film obviously wants kid audiences, but it just as obviously seeks adult crossovers. In fact, some of the early talk about Wall Street and the stock market will turn the kiddies off. However, they'll like the idea of a rich kid who thwarts the adults at every turn. Greed is a major message here.
Macaulay looks more uncomfortable and more like an acting puppet than in any of his other films. His reactions are mawkish and broad.
This is the second of current releases filmed in North Carolina, which seems to be attracting more and more moviemakers. This one, to good advantage, was filmed at the 100-year-old Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N. C. The former Vanderbilt family mansion is reportedly the largest in the United States and was also used by Grace Kelly for filming ``The Swan'' and by Peter Sellers for ``Being There.'' It, indeed, makes Richie look rich.
Based on a Harvey Comics character, ``Richie Rich'' goes through the required poses without much flair or excitement. It almost comes to life in the finale, when Richie has to rescue his parents from the evil Van Dough while climbing over Mount Richmore - a spoof of Alfred Hitchcock's Mount Rushmore adventure, ``North by Northwest.''
The only good performance is that of Jonathan Hyde as the butler, who is Richie's most trustworthy adviser. Unlike most adults in such movies, the butler teaches Richie how to be both responsible and have fun.
``Richie Rich'' is mostly harmless, if predictable. If you like looking at rich kids flaunt their wealth, it's just the thing.
The next time you see Macaulay Culkin, he'll probably be jumping on a motorcycle with Brooke Shields. His ``Home Alone'' years are over. MEMO: MOVIE REVIEW
Cast: Macaulay Culkin, John Larroquette, Edward Herrmann, Christine
Ebersole, Jonathan Hyde, Michael McShane, Reggie Jackson
Director: Donald Petrie
Screenplay: Tom S. Parker and Jim Jennewein
MPAA rating: PG (mild language, threats of violence)
Mal's rating: two stars
Locations: Movies 10 in Chesapeake; Janaf and Main Gate in Norfolk;
Kemps River, Lynnhaven 8 and Pembroke in Virginia Beach ILLUSTRATION: JOEL WARREN, Warner Bros. photo
Macaulay Culkin stars in ``Richie Rich'' as a wealthy youth who must
deal with greedy adults.