Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Disney's The Kid

By Kimberley Jones

JULY 10, 2000: 

D. Jon Turtletaub; with Bruce Willis, Spencer Breslin, Emily Mortimer, Lily Tomlin, Chi McBride, Jean Smart. (PG, 104 min.)

What do you get when you take the three ingredients that made The Sixth Sense so winning ­ Bruce Willis, a kid old beyond his years, and a supernatural bent ­ and process them through the Disney-movie meat grinder? You get Disney's The Kid, a lightweight, intermittently engaging comedy that about gives itself a hernia trying to give you a warm fuzzy. Willis plays Russell Morley Duritz, a smarmy, self-important image consultant living successfully but soullessly in L.A. The irony is that Russell is the one most in need of a makeover. Conveniently, Russell's 40th birthday is just around the corner, so he's primed for a physical and spiritual overhaul. Enter the Kid. But the Kid isn't just any kid; he's Rusty (Breslin), the eight-year-old incarnation of Russell, somehow time warped into the year 2000, into Russell's living room. It's a wonderfully weird idea, the notion of our past and present selves coexisting on the same plane. The script, by Audrey Wells (The Truth About Cats and Dogs), has ample opportunity to explore the narcissistic relationship between the two Russells, which is alternately self-loathing and self-loving, antagonistic, then paternalistic. Unfortunately, Wells simply cracks a couple of jokes about how the two Russells have to pee at the same time and leaves it at that. Instead, we're treated to a treacly, pop-psychology piece about wrestling old demons and unearthing the inner child. Yawn. The usually dynamic Willis displays about as much charisma as a fencepost here. After his inevitable transformation from mean nasty Russell to fun-loving Russell, Willis hits the opposite extreme and overacts wildly. However, The Kid features one major saving grace, packaged neatly in the pudgy, four-foot frame of Spencer Breslin. His Rusty stomps around, screwing up his face distastefully at his adult version and listing off the reasons why Big Russell sucks so much ("No dog. No wife. I don't even fly jets. I grow up to be a loser!") Breslin's by far the best thing about The Kid, but sadly, he comes in late and leaves early. Once he's gone, the film must resort to tried-and-true tricks, like pulling out puppies, to tug at the heartstrings. Well, of course the audience is gonna go "awwwww" at the sight of a warm, cuddly puppy dog. That kind of trick exploits the part of every person that melts at AT&T commercials and makes dumb faces at drooling babies, and it's a cheap way to get the audience to feel something. It isn't unexpected, considering Disney has the subtlety of a sledgehammer when it comes to audience manipulation. But why use puppies when there's the Kid? Breslin mesmerizes, makes laughing easy, and completely owns this movie.

2 Stars

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