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The Kid

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Kid

Starring: Bruce Willis, Spencer Breslin
Director: John Turtletaub
Rated: PG
RunTime: 101 Minutes
Release Date: July 2000
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Nick Chinlund, Lily Tomlin, Emily Mortimer, Jean Smart, Steve Tom, Chi McBride, Richard Jenkins, Jeri Ryan

Review by John Beachem
2½ stars out of 4

Russell Duritz (Bruce Willis) is a professional image consultant, which means he makes his living telling people what is wrong with them and bossing them around. Russell is blunt, rude, demanding, and absolutely miserable. He spends his time insulting his two employees; his sharp tongued secretary, Janet (Lily Tomlin), and his adoring assistant, Amy (Emily Mortimer). His life has been this way for some time now, until one evening when a familiar looking boy, named Rusty (Spencer Breslin), shows up in his house. After a few tests for scars and birthmarks, Russell determines that Rusty is his younger self, somehow arrived in the future. He first thinks he's crazy, and tries the "very powerful medication" his psychiatrist prescribed. After that doesn't work he asks Janet to make the boy go away (she finds this very amusing). Finally he decides the boy was sent to him so Russell could improve his childhood, and he has to figure out how to do that, and then how to send him back. While his interests first lie entirely in getting rid of this boy, he slowly realizes Rusty may have been sent to improve Russell's life, not vice-versa.

Walking into a live action Disney movie (or an animated one for that matter), one expects a certain level of sappiness and schmaltz. I'm not sure why the execs at Disney think kids like this (I sure didn't when I was a kid), but I suppose it's hard to argue with the kind of money these movies keep pulling in. In the beginning of "The Kid" I was pleased to find the schmaltz level was surprisingly low, and it stayed this way for the first half of the film. Instead of the expected cheesy sentimentality, we get Bruce Willis acting like a highly amusing jerk and Lily Tomlin delivering lines in a hilarious dead-pan style. Yet just as I was getting my hopes up, and thinking maybe this would be quite an entertaining movie, Audrey Wells ("George of the Jungle") lays on the schmaltz in the last half like she was storing it up, hoping to kill us with one big blast. As I sat there, reeling from blow after blow (everything from childhood redemption against bullies to cute little puppy dogs named Chester), two thoughts were flying through my mind: "how could a movie change so drastically in five minutes?" and "why did Bruce allow this to happen?"

Speaking of Bruce, he turns in one of his most deadpan performances to date. By that I mean for the entire first half of the film, he shows next to no emotion. This may not sound great to everyone, but it's a comfortable, familiar style coming from Willis. The problem comes in the second half when he is asked to act in a way he has never acted before, jubilant and happy. Saying things like "Holy Smokes" just doesn't seem like Bruce, and he actually looks pained when saying it. Newcomer Spencer Breslin gives an adequate turn as Bruce's most recent adolescent co-star, but he's no Haley Joel Osment. The two standout performances come from Lily Tomlin ("Tea With Mussolini"), as mentioned earlier, and Emily Mortimer ("Scream 3") as Bruce's perfect foil. Mortimer pulls off an amazing feat, she acts bubbly and happy with enough restraint to avoid becoming irritating. The only problem I had with her character was that Wells underused her to the point where we developed no attachment to the character except to hate Bruce for being mean to her. Watch for Jean Smart (From back in the days of "Designing Women") in a strange supporting role as a television anchor-woman that Bruce unwillingly gives advice to.

I wasn't entirely sure how to write this review, because by the end I'd gotten the distinct impression I'd witnessed two very different movies. One was fun and entertaining, the other was irritating and schmaltzy. I decided the first half earned a four star rating and the second earned a two, so it averaged out to a three overall. I would have been tempted to give it a three and a half if it weren't for the fact that (this is a minor spoiler folks, read no further if you don't want to know anything about the movie) nothing is really explained in the end. We get some sort of weird, quasi, psuedo-explanation involving the future and a bi-plane, but that hardly qualifies. In fact, Jon Turteltaub ("Instinct") doesn't do much to explain things here. He throws an occasional sci-fi like scene of a '50s airport diner vanishing into thin air into the mix just to spice things up, but he doesn't even attempt to explain how all the events portrayed were made possible. Another point to mark against "The Kid" is the irritating score by Marc Shaiman ("South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut"). The music blasts throughout the theater in a deeply dramatic fashion all the time, even when dramatic music isn't needed. "The Kid" runs a little too long at 104 minutes, and I'd recommend it only to die hard Bruce Willis fans and to those interested in seeing a younger talent on the rise in Emily Mortimer. For a lack of any explanation for how the events in the movie occurred and for a very Disney like second half I give it three out of five stars.

Copyright 2000 John Beachem

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