John Hughes may need a rest. The man who did the scripts for "Home Alone" and "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" may be working at too heavy a pace. His newest film, "Career Opportunities," plays like an afterthought, one that was never clearly developed.
The film's ambitions are small, but the results are smaller than was hoped. The comedy stars Frank Whaley ("The Doors") as a young man with little ambition but loads of charm. When he loses one more menial job, his father tells him he will have to pay rent or move out.
In desperation, he takes a job as night custodian at a department store and finds himself locked in on his first night of duty.
This is where the movie plays like a redo of "Home Alone." While Jim (Whaley) is helping himself to all the goodies and skating around the place in clothing he has taken from the racks, two burglars have broken into the store.
This is the same gimmick that was used in "Home Alone" but it is a lot less funny in this instance. These burglars are far more threatening than quaint.
Some people thought the violence in "Home Alone" was ugly. Others responded to it as they would to The Three Stooges or Tom and Jerry. There is no option here. These guys are sinister, not funny, particularly when they talk about killing the boy and his companion, a girl who had hidden in a dressing room and then forgot to get out and leave the store before it closed.
Played by Jennifer Connelly, she is another misfire. She had been shoplifting in a ploy to embarrass her father, but he doesn't seem all that bad. It is the girl who acts as though she has lost it. She is hardly sympathetic.
John Candy, who has apparently become Hughes' movie signature (he made a very brief appearance in "Home Alone"), does a small turn in the film, one that doesn't hurt anything but doesn't help, either.
"Career Opportunities" begins well. For the first 20 minutes, it looks as though it is going somewhere, but once we get inside that store, the movie dies.
If you're a Hughes follower, you will see traces (in addition to "Home Alone") of his "Breakfast Club" and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." The new film, now playing at local theaters, is a thing of bits and pieces that never add up to much. It is farce without form, a good enough idea gone very dry.
* A young man finds a job as night custodian at a department store and on his first day at work, finds himself locked inside the store.
CAST: Frank Whaley, Jennifer Connelly, Barry Corbin, Dermot Mulroney
DIRECTOR: Bryan Gordon
RATING: PG - 13 (language)
RUNNING TIME: 85 minutes