This character-focused tale of how a few family members deal with a series of robberies in their area never forgets to have a good time and doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s clear from the start How to Deter a Robber has more interest in giving the cast entertaining characters to bring alive while mildly sending up various cliches than going through the motions of a home invasion movie. I, for one, am quite pleased with where the story goes and how the characters deal with circumstances they find themselves in–to be nice and cagey about it!
The Williams family–consisting of teen daughters Madison (Vanessa Marano) & Heather (Leah Lewis), parents Charlotte (Gabrielle Carteris) & Scott (Arnold Y. Kim), and of course Uncle Andy (Chris Mulkey)–spends their Christmas at the family cabin with Madison’s boyfriend Jimmy (Benjamin Papac) as a guest while, unbeknownst to them, various neighboring homes in the area fall victim to a spree of burglaries. Madison’s working on a college admissions essay her mother thinks needs more work, but having fun with Jimmy takes precedence over being lectured at or embarrassed by childhood stories over dinner. When teen lovers Madison and Jimmy stumble across the aftermath of a break-in at an absent neighbor’s home they decide it couldn’t hurt to be prepared if the criminals (Sonny Valicenti & Abbie Cobb) eventually find their way over to the Williams’ family cabin. Will their efforts to ward off robbers and protect themselves be successful? They may soon find out…
First off, How to Deter a Robber isn’t a horror or thriller by any means so if you’re hoping for grisly murders and frights do yourself a favor and look elsewhere. That doesn’t mean this is an entirely bloodless affair, by the way, just that genial comedy featuring the kinds of people you might know in normal life is more the focus. There’s a bit of a Home Alone vibe, what with the bandits prowling for loot and young people defending what’s theirs, but it’s hardly the main thrust and things prove a little more complicated and relatable than that. The snowy setting is also well done–I could almost feel the chilly mountain air in my living room.
The cast does a great job at being a bunch of average people who make the kinds of choices which really don’t seem too far removed from reality while also still being entertaining to watch–this isn’t some mumblecore snooze-fest, don’t worry. Vanessa Marano as Madison walks a fine line of being enough of a true-to-life teenager who’s still actually clever & likable, so congrats, and even though her boyfriend Jimmy is kind of a moron he’s at least not a mean-spirited moron–more just inept. Abbie Cobb and Chris Mulkey also stood out to me as refreshing portrayals of a robber and Uncle, respectively, but really I don’t think any cast member in How to Deter a Robber wins the “Weak Link” award.
So, if it isn’t obvious by now I’ll go ahead and unequivocally state I liked this a bunch. Those in the mood for light, character-centric holiday breaking and entering hijinks shouldn’t be disappointed with How to Deter a Robber.
8 out 10 Hobags (see the movie to get that)