Directed by Donald Petrie. Starring Macaulay Culkin, John Larroquette, Ed Herrmann, Michael Mcshane, Christine Ebersole, Jonathan Hyde. (1994)
REVIEWED By Joey O'Bryan, Fri., Dec. 23, 1994
Okay, it's what you've all been waiting for -- Macaulay Culkin in the role he was born to play, an obnoxious youngster with way too much money, left home alone (again) to tangle with scheming adults. Cheap shots aside, Richie Rich is, of course, based upon the old Harvey comics character, who is, simply put: “the richest kid in the world.” And, according to this latest incarnation, also the loneliest. Yes, he may have everything a kid could ever want, but his exalted position has set him apart from his peers, as evidenced by a group of “lower class” kids who initially view him as nothing more than a spoiled, rich brat when he attempts to socialize with them. But why shouldn't they? Instead of winning them over with his charming personality, he does it with the roller coaster in his backyard and the McDonald's in his living room (a bit of product placement so obvious that even the phrase “You deserve a break today” is casually worked into the dialogue), not to mention the $100 bribe it took to get them to come to his house in the first place. Being at odds with its own “money can't buy happiness” clichés, Richie Rich is the kind of film that wants to play it both ways, sending out mixed signals to its young audience in the process. Will those young audiences care? Probably not, but they are likely to be just as bored by the pedestrian big business satire as they are thrilled by the prospect of owning their very own “kid-a-pult.” The film takes more oddball turns when a greedy business executive, played with walk-through ennui by John Larroquette, plots to steal the Rich family fortune by trying to kill off the entire family. This leads to a rather questionable sequence in which Richie's butler and guardian, Cadbury, is sent to prison after being framed for murder and is nearly knifed to death in the bathroom by a Hell's Angel on the villain's payroll. The saving grace of Richie Rich is the manic, over-the-top performance by Michael McShane as Keenbean, the Rich family's resident mad scientist who gets to say things like “Need a new bedpan? I know I do!” while the rest of the cast gets stuck with dull clunkers like: “See he is the richest kid in the world, he has friends.” Ugh; gimme a break. Producer Joel Silver (Die Hard) does endow the picture with some mighty generous production values, which allow for a few jokey big-name cameos and some nifty visual effects during the Hitchcock-inspired finale, but it's too little, too late. There's absolutely nothing here you haven't seen before, and while some kids might be mildly entertained, they would probably be even happier just staying home for the daily Power Rangers re-run. And that's free, to boot.