True to his comic book character, Richie Rich (Macaulay Culkin) is indeed “the poor little rich boy.” The rich part is obvious: as an infant, dollar bills make up his crib’s mobile; the boy’s baseball coach is Reggie Jackson; in class, he sits at a walnut desk with a computer, fax and shredder. Yet he is poor because of his lack of a normal childhood and all it entails: friends, spontaneity, adventure. That is, until Mr. and Mrs. Rich’s plane is lost at sea after the dastardly Lawrence Van Dough (John Larroquette) sabotages it to take over their $70 billion empire. Van Dough frames Richie’s loyal butler Cadbury and becomes Richie’s guardian. Recruiting a motley crew of newfound friends, Richie sets out to find his parents and wrestle the Rich fortune from Van Dough’s treacherous fingers. This movie’s wealth of imaginative gadgetry is captivating, but the hokie humor and bad acting taint its enjoyability for most adults.
RICHIE RICH sends an odd mix of messages. It proclaims that money cannot buy happiness, that well-off people ought to protect those less fortunate, and that family is more important than money. A touching moment comes when would-be thieves question Mr. Rich about the contents of his vault; baby shoes, bowling trophies and other family memorabilia. Mr. Rich says, ‘[money] is not what we treasure.” Then again, the movie touts the pleasure of unimaginable fortune, implies that lying is funny as long as you don’t get caught, and stoops to jokes about passing gas and Richie gawks at his attractive trailer’s body. There are also subtle New Age messages: The butler tells Richie that the power of his father is inside him, which Richie interprets as “trust the force,” and a woman tries to guess the butler’s Zodiac sign. Couple these with fight fists, shootings and a few nasty words and the result is a kids’ movie that younger kids probably shouldn’t see.