Disney's The Kid
Rating -

Comedy (US); 2000; Rated PG; 104 Minutes

Bruce Willis: Russel Duritz
Spencer Breslin: Rusty Duritz
Emily Mortimer: Amy
Lily Tomlin: Janet
Jean Smart: Deirdre
Chi McBride: Kenny
Daniel von Bargen: Sam Duritz

Produced by Stephen J. Eads, William M. Elvin, Bill Johnson, Hunt Lowry, Arnold Rifkin, Christina Steinberg, Jon Turteltaub and David Willis; Directed by Jon Turteltaub; Screenwritten by Audrey Wells

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Written by DAVID KEYES

“Disney’s The Kid” is the type of movie that walks thin lines dividing ripe emotion with cheap sentiment, but is so confident in its own execution that none of us really mind. Self-assurance is usually the first positive notch towards bandaging the infectious emotional wounds that plague productions like this, but in the recent years, consistent contrivance has turned most melodramas into a display of groans and complaints from the moviegoers who endure them. You can usually tell the difference between the two; a film aiming for some sort of plausibility in its sentiment will anchor the grievances and/or happy occasions on a significant plot structure without over-the-top complexion. A latter example would be a film that devotes its entire time to unleashing endless tear-jerker situations back-to-back without any dramatic or narrative purpose (other than to coerce audiences into pulling out tissues).

Here is a movie in partial match with the first description. Some moments are a bit dramatized, and everyone should will be able to spot manipulation coming a mile away, but it has messages as the heart of its story, is funny and poignant, and doesn’t let the occasional sentiment drowned out the story. When you get right down to the bare bones, “Disney’s The Kid” is essentially a good-natured family drama that will please any viewer, assuming they are able to embrace the eccentric premise in which a business man is visited by himself in child form.

A thesis with this approach won’t so easily attract the typical viewer to begin with (which may explain why the word “Disney” is in the official title). The film stars Bruce Willis as Russel Duritz, a thirty-something image consultant whose shrewd attitude keeps him on the dead end of the social register. After his current relationship is halted, Russel returns home to a big empty house, uncomfortable only because an unidentified kid has been seen on the property recently. After time, a confrontation is made, and Russel learns, through all the appropriate clues (such as a birthmark below the collar bone) that the kid is actually the eight-year-old version of himself. No, really; they’re actually the same person, only difference being the kid carries Russel’s old nickname, Rusty (he’s played by Spencer Breslin, by the way).

The explanation? There isn’t one, which is essential since the reasoning would defy any sensible discussion to begin with. Here’s the evident answer, though: Rusty has been sent into his own future in order to change the outcome of his life, which, as shown through the adult Duritz, is sheltered in wealth but iced by poor communication with others, ultimately proving why his social life is left up in the air. To change this, however, the adult Russel must make an introspection into his painful past, and determine what exactly made him the impersonal man he currently is.

The sugar coating is supplied by the vibrant screen talent, and some of the most charming moments come from young Spencer Breslin himself. In one scene, our spirits are overjoyed with energy, when the pudgy lad takes inventory of his current adulthood, then shouts out, “I grow up to be a loser!” Equal recognition goes to Bruce Willis, who doesn’t do the outstanding job with his material as he could have, but is fairly competent in the role anyway (especially during early situations when Russel demonstrates most of the reasons why he has no friends hanging around). Last but surely not least is Lily Tomlin playing Russel’s overworked assistant, whose mouth is always loaded with juicy dialogue just waiting to be shot out to those around her. The only setback is that she is seen on screen but just a few times.

There will obviously be comparisons between “Disney’s The Kid” and “The Sixth Sense,” both movies which feature Bruce Willis encouraging a child to push aside his fears and, more or less, vindicate a sense of dignity. Even though the new film will have less impact on the box office as “The Sixth Sense,” it goes without saying that I admired it more than the ghost thriller from last summer. Part of the reason has to do with payoff; whereas the former picture has a sensible climax but nothing worthwhile preceding it, the latter does remarkably well in building a complex before unleashing the ending (which, admittedly, isn’t as great as I hoped it to be). Of course, total satisfaction is anything but guaranteed here as a result of spontaneous sequences of emotional drivel, and there is even a moment when we feel like tugging at the emergency exit when Duritz is beginning to see why he is who he is in adult form after enduring the abuse of peers and his father as a young child.

But if you exhibit both the merit and the flaws on a scale, the success outweighs the complaints by far. “Disney’s The Kid” knows what territories to tackle, makes some wrong turns, and always has the decisiveness to get back on the right track.

© 2000, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org. Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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