A cross between 'The Goonies', 'The Breakfast Club' and 'The Terminal, 'Grounded' is a harmless, and occasionally amusing, Christmas flick for kids. While it doesn't have enough heart to become an oft-repeated classic like the first two films, there's still enough light-hearted fun here to keep the children quiet for 90 minutes.
It's Christmas Eve and a snowstorm grounds the planes at Chicago's fictional Hoover International Airport. All passengers are stranded, including a large number of unaccompanied children. Bumbling airport employee Zach (Valderrama, late of 'That '70s Show') is assigned to watch the kids, but five of them slip through his grasp: resourceful Spencer (Christopher), rich girl Grace (Mantegna), performer Charlie (Williams), geeky Beef (Kelly from 'Bad Santa') and tomboy Donna (Shephard). After wreaking havoc throughout the terminal, intolerant airport manager Oliver (Black) confines the ingenious fivesome to barracks, not that they stay put for long.
Eschewing big budget spectacle, 'Grounded' is an entertainingly old-fashioned film that involves five increasingly inventive children running rings around an assortment of slow, dull adults. When the action concentrates on the main group, all goes well but when Beef decides to wander off into his own subplot and too much time is spent with Spencer's hippie father's efforts to drive - in his biodiesel-fuelled car - to his kids for Christmas, the overall effect gets somewhat diluted. A decent cast gives some weight to a very contrived script although it would take far more work to bring any kind of reality to the forced sentiment of 'Grounded's ostensibly heart-warming conclusion. Still, I'd take it over fellow Christmas film 'Deck the Halls' any day.