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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
THE KID Evokes Childhood Memories
by Betty Jo Tucker

As an eight-year old, or thereabouts, I wanted to be a movie star, a private detective, or a Rockette when I grew up. Instead, here I am sitting at a computer in the wee hours of the morning typing up this movie review. If my eight-year old self magically appeared, how could I explain what happened to those childhood dreams? In Disney’s The Kid, Bruce Willis (The Sixth Sense) plays a man facing just such a dilemma when he meets himself as a child.

Portraying Russ Duritz, a highly successful image consultant, Willis impressively projects a Scrooge-like unwillingness to get close to anyone. From his cold demeanor to his twitching eye, he is totally convincing as an adult in deep psychological trouble. Bachelor Russ keeps so busy telling famous clients how to behave, he has no time for friends, family, or romance. He even demands a "5-minute" quick fix from his psychiatrist --- while refusing to sit down in her office.

Two days before Russ’ 40th birthday, his life changes dramatically. Like Scrooge’s ghost of Christmas past, the child Russ once was appears in his plush upscale home. Rusty (Spencer Breslin) represents everything the adult Russ has repressed. The boy is chubby, playful, and curious. "What makes the moon look orange sometimes when it rises?" he asks with a sense of wonder. When Russ can’t explain, the child complains, "I always knew I’d grow up to be stupid."

Rusty, who wants to be a pilot, can’t understand what Russ does for a living. When he finally figures it out, he tells Russ, "You help people lie about themselves so they look like someone they’re not." Adding to the child’s disappointment is Russ’ lack of companionship. "I’m almost forty years old and I don’t have a wife or a dog? I’m a loser!" he shouts.

Willis and Breslin put their hearts and souls into these performances. Funny, pathetic, and furious, they draw us into their problems while reminding us of our own childhood ambitions. The amazing Willis, who even lost weight in order to be more of a contrast to Breslin, only falters in one scene. He hams it up too much when his character thinks he’s going crazy. Although the role of Rusty fits movie newcomer Breslin (already a t.v. commercial veteran) perfectly, he says a few lines that seem inappropriate for his age. Maybe some eight-year olds use words like "obviously," but none that I know do.

Anyone familiar with the outcome of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol can predict the impact of Rusty’s visit on Russ’ future. Screenwriter Audrey Wells, who co-wrote the hilarious George of the Jungle, has given this classic theme a whimsical, modern twist, and director Jon Turtletaub (Phenomenon) moves things along with a lively pace. Supporting actresses Emily Mortimer (Scream 3), Lily Tomlin (Tea with Mussolini), and Jean Smart (Guinevere) are just marvelous. In the role of an employee who loves Russ, Mortimer is a delight with her charming British accent and pixie face. Smart displays warmth and charisma as a television personality who helps Russ discover his inner child. Not surprisingly, Tomlin gets most of the laughs with her portrayal of Russ’ sarcastic assistant. When he asks her to make Rusty disappear, she jokes about "magical assistant powers," claiming she should have worn her magic bra and panties.

While not a laugh-a-minute movie like Chicken Run, Disney’s The Kid put a smile on my face and a song in my heart. Even though adults may appreciate this modern fable more than children, it ranks as one of the summer’s best family films.

(Released by Walt Disney Pictures and rated "PG" for mild language.)

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