GROUNDED ★ Directed by Paul Feig. Starring Lewis Black, Wilmer Valderrama, Tyler James Williams, Dyllan Christopher, Brett Kelly, Gina Mantegna, Teri Garr PG cert, gen release, 90 min
REBRAND this useless family film as a piece of conceptual art and it might begin to make a perverse kind of sense. If the director’s intention were to instil in the unlucky viewer the emotions and sensations he or she might feel if trapped in an airport for days on end, then it would surely be ranked a roaring success. After just 89 busy minutes I felt tired, dehydrated, physically uncomfortably and profoundly irritated.
It helps that the food on sale in cinemas is so similar to that flogged in airports and that the same primary coloured, institutional drabness permeates the common spaces in both venues. Give this man the Turner Prize.
Grounded does, indeed, focus upon a group of unaccompanied minors stranded in an airport on the night before Christmas. It being the law that all comedies set at this time of year be a version of A Christmas Carol, the airport manager turns out to be a terrible old meanie who has banned all decorations from the building and who seems intent on otherwise fouling up the youngsters’ special evening. The disparate band of buddies – nerd, fatty, rich kid and so on – refuse to accept defeat and set about making the season merry.
Is there anything worth celebrating about this badly acted, relentlessly ugly, perfunctorily written piece of dross? Perhaps. It does show that, despite the advance of video games and digital animation, there is still a place in cinemas for those old-fashioned dramas in which groups of kids – fives who are famous, sevens who are secret – reveal themselves to be smarter and more imaginative than their elders. I hated those things 30 years ago, so it seems only fair that the current generation suffer them too.