— by Jeff Schultz

There’s a flaw so big in the setup to this barely passable kids-in-peril thriller that you’ll either have to accept its absurdity or just go home. A single mother (Kathryn Hahn, everywhere these days) hasn’t spoken to her parents in ten years after a bitter forced parting involving physical violence. But she’s sending her two young children (the boy is only 8) unaccompanied to spend a week with the grandparents they’ve never seen or met. Part of the rationale is that Mom’s got a new boyfriend, who’s taking her on a cruise. But it’s just a contrivance for what follows and, this being Shyamalan, for the inevitable (and here, lame) twist. Disney star Ed Oxenbould as the boy is strong, but the girl who plays his older sister is not only bland, her precocious silliness is grating. Speaking of grating, Gramps here is called “Pop Pop”. A lot. Pop Pop. Pop Pop. At least Granny is just “Nana”. The character actors who play the grandparents do creepy well. But despite the making-a-documentary shooting style (also a creaky part of the setup) there’s nothing spontaneous or unexpected. The trailer doesn’t show you everything, but what it leaves out isn’t very exciting. And the ending (I should say “endings” because there’s an emotional coda that has you praying for the credits) is completely botched: the people who deserve to get what’s coming to them are essentially dispatched offscreen, when of course we want to watch them get beaten to a pulp. No vengeance, no fun.

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