''Dutch'' is never as bad as its preview might suggest, but then it isn't as good as it could be.
The new film was written by the prolific John Hughes (he is to movies what Stephen King is to books), who recently has also done ''Home Alone'' and ''Career Opportunities.''
''Dutch'' has some very good scenes; others, unfortunately, just don't work. It also includes some segments that are in questionable taste, but then so did ''Career Opportunities.''
The title figure is played with ingratiating charm by Ed O'Neill, star of ''Married . . . With Children,'' the Fox network comedy hit. O'Neill is Dutch Dooley, a self-made contractor who is asked to pick up his girlfriend's son at an Atlanta boarding school and bring him home for Thanksgiving, in Chicago.
It seems an easy enough assignment, but it isn't. The kid proves to be a snotty, overbearing, badly raised and badly behaved snob who intends to make as much trouble as he can for the man who may soon be his stepfather.
When they first meet, the kid mauls Dutch, who takes this and more because he is trying to bond with the boy.
You'll see elements of ''Planes, Trains and Automobiles'' (another Hughes script), ''Home Alone'' and ''Career Opportunities'' in the new film. In one case, which echoes "Career Opportunities," they should have left bad enough alone. This is when Dutch and his charge find themselves in a tangle with factory guards.
When the boy and Dutch get the upper hand, they pretend that the boy is a crazed killer, a scene that is supposed to play for laughs but is much too close to current headlines. This is definitely not funny.
Dutch also takes some unnecessary chances, even for a film that wants to be a mixture of reality and farce. He knows the kid is untrustworthy, but that doesn't stop him from leaving the keys in the ignition. Naturally, the kid takes off.
Elsewhere, the film is more rewarding. When Dutch and the boy find themselves sleeping at a shelter for the homeless, some good points are made.
Jo Beth Williams, a worthy addition to any cast, plays the boy's mother. Ethan Randall is the boy.
''Dutch,'' in which he and his charge spend some time with traveling call girls, has a PG-13 rating, so you may want to pay some attention to that.
** A contractor, asked to escort his girlfriend's son home from a private school in Atlanta, discovers that the boy is not the nicest traveling companion.
CAST: Ed O'Neill, Ethan Randall, Jo Beth Williams, Christopher McDonald
DIRECTOR: Peter Faiman
RATING: PG-13 (language, violence, sex)
RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes