Hopefully, "Disney's The Kid" qualifies as the final entry in the Bruce Willis co-starring with a child actor movie trilogy. "Disney's The Kid" lands somewhere between "Mercury Rising" and "The Sixth Sense." Obviously superior to the mediocre "Mercury Rising," this routine but upscale time travel comedy falls far short of "The Sixth Sense." Instead of Bruce bailing out his immature cohort, the juvenile pulls Bruce's chestnuts out of the fire. Comparatively, "Kid and "Sense" both concerned supernatural phenomenon, but "Kid" lacks the suspense of "Sense." Scenarist Audrey ("Shall We Dance") Wells has contrived a tolerably entertaining but predictably sentimental yarn where a well-heeled bachelor businessman, about to turn forty, unexpectedly finds himself confronted by himself when he was age eight! Sound like a comic whirl on the Dennis Quaid & Jim Caviezel father-son thriller "Frequency?" Not only does Bruce-at-forty meet himself-at-eight, but he also later gets a glimpse of himself-at-sixty! Clearly, any movie where the hero collides with himself from the past as well as the future simultaneously has at least a modicum of potential. Sadly, however, "The Kid" suffers from an anemic, half-baked script that offers few revelations and fewer delights. Worse, "The Kid" degenerates into demographic Mickey Mouse ideology. In this world, according to Disney, a loser is any guy who neither has a wife nor a dog by age forty.
"Instinct" director Jon Turteltaub uses the opening reels to establish the cold, abrasive, egotistical character of Russell Duritz (Bruce Willis), a fashion conscious Los Angeles 'image consultant' with all the compassion of a shark and the knack for keeping politicians and corporate fat cats from committing public relations suicide. When it comes to behaving a curmudgeon, Russell rivals the obnoxious Jack Nicholson character in James L. Brooks' "As Good As It Gets." Russell cannot stand to hear anybody cry, and he considers his time so valuable that he rations it out to his clients.
Russell's administrative Girl Friday, the tireless but under-appreciated Janet (Lily Tomlin) relays all his messages and runs his errands. Ostensibly, Janet serves as his umbilical cord with reality. The surprise is that anybody in their right mind would put up with his antagonistic personality. Loyally, Janet sticks with Russell through thick and thin. At one point, she finds herself compelled to lie for him, so that Russell can evade his estranged father, Sam Duritz (Daniel von Bargen of "The General's Daughter"), who only wants to invite him home for a long-overdue family supper. Once Turteltaub and Wells have delineated Russell's unpleasant character, they bring on eight-year old Rusty (Spencer Breslin) who turns Russell's life into chaos.
Initially, Rusty materializes mysteriously at Russell's palatial house as an unwelcome anonymous munchkin with a late-model toy airplane, skirting Russell's sophisticated home security alarm system. Earlier, a red biplane buzzed Russell during rush hour traffic, and Rusty's red baseball jacket associates him with the aircraft. Eventually, the red model airplane toy comes to epitomize innocence lost, rather like the sled 'Rosebud' in Orson Welles' 'Citizen Kane." When Rusty shows up the next time, Russell jumps into his Porsche and pursues the chubby cherub on a bike across L.A. into an airport. Following junior jumbo into an old-fashioned trailer diner, Russell discovers later that the diner was a figment of his imagination! Finally, Russell corners Rusty rather anti-climatically when the latter changes the TV channel at the former's mansion. Presumably, Rusty wanted to be caught, because earlier he propelled his obese butt into and out of a couple of cliffhanger situations with Russell at his heels. Alone together in Russell's house, they compare scars (one reminded me of the Nike check symbol) as well as personal idiosyncrasies and eventually they conclude that they are one in the same. What began as an episodic, down-to-earth character comedy rapidly takes a turn for the Twilight Zone that recalls another Turteltaub movie "Phenomenon." Audrey Wells' amusing but sophomoric wish-fulfillment fantasy poses a number of questions that everybody has pondered. She appropriates eight-year Rusty as the mouthpiece to expose Russell's mid-life crisis. After he accepts who they are, Rusty takes a dim view of his adult accolades: "I'm forty. I'm not married. I don't fly jets and I don't have a dog? I grow up to be a loser!" More than last year's split-personality masterpiece "Fight Club," "Kid" conjures up schizophrenia of the worst sort. Whereas "Fight Club's" hero divested himself of the spoils of materialism, "The Kid" reforms its rude, arrogant bachelor hero so that he will wed, raise a family, and pass along the baton of life in the relay race of civilization. After all, the anal retentive Russell had committed the worst sin by refusing to renounce his selfishness and give something back to society.
Clearly, the Disney propaganda machine is very apparent in Wells' homage to "It's A Wonderful Life." Of course, there is a happy ending with several hard lessons before the triumph. Rusty takes older Russell on a trip back to the past and the pivotal event in high school that warped his life. Evidently, some school yard bullies beat the overweight Rusty up and threatened to ignite a bunch of firecracker tied to the next of a three-legged dog called Tripod (Victimizing a dog is the last straw in schmaltz!) If Rusty can vanquish the bullies, he can live the life that the sought in his dreams. Basically, Russell gets the chance to learn the same lesson at age eight that he learns at age forty so he can give his life a make-over.
The first casualty in both Wells' saccharine script and Turteltaub's heavy-handed helming is subtlety. Admirably, Willis makes every effort to offset this offensive sugar-coating with his "Scrooge"-like performance. Ultimately, this hearken-to-your-inner-child, feel-good, yuppie pabulum falters because the comedy lacks hilarity and the messages about conforming to the ideals of consumer society are facile.
1 out of 1 found this helpful.
Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.