Disney's The Kid
review by Dan Lybarger, 30 June 2000

Bruce Willis isn’t one to tamper with success. Disney’s The Kid features the actor paired with yet another young co-star, just as he was in the deservedly popular The Sixth Sense. The older movie also had style, imagination and razor-sharp logic. The new film falls short on these qualities but is sometimes entertaining in spite of itself.

Disney’s The Kid works best during the opening sequences. Because of his long string of action flicks, it’s easy to forget that Willis is a good comic actor. Blessed with a remarkable sense of timing, Willis is frequently amusing as Russ Duritz, an acid-tongued image consultant. Russ can easily make crooked politicians and double-dealing entrepreneurs look benign.

Russ can make these scoundrels appear saintly, but he can’t do much for himself. He’s a tyrannical boss (frequently waking employees from well-deserved sleep) and is barely on speaking terms with his father and sister. Despite his Herculean accomplishments and considerable wealth, Russ is a miserable guy.

His life gets even more aggravating when a pudgy eight-year-old boy (Spencer Breslin) mysteriously gets past his alarm system. The lad keeps reappearing despite everything that Russ does to shoo him away. After watching the boy’s pronounced mannerisms, Russ discovers that the little fellow is really the younger version of himself. The small doppelganger starts interrupting Russ’ meetings and constantly complains about the way his older self has turned out. The older Russ may have a luxurious home and car, but little Rusty finds the old Russ to be "a dogless, chickless loser." Worse, other people can actually see little Rusty, so he’s not a hallucination. The boy sets out to set Russ up with a principled photographer (Emily Mortimer) and to discover a way to make his older self happier.

The idea of literally getting in touch with one’s inner child might seem irritatingly sweet, but screenwriter Audrey Wells (The Truth about Cats and Dogs and Guenivere) gives the first half of the movie a much-needed venom. Willis appears to relish playing such a mean-spirited hustler, and his putdowns are delightfully scathing.

But as the film begins to explore how little Rusty came back into Russ’ life, Disney’s The Kid loses steam. The conclusion feels hollow and lackluster, and Instinct’s Jon Turtletaub’s ham-fisted direction (lots of loud swelling music) doesn’t help. There’s also a curious oversight. Characters constantly refer to Russ’ twitching eye, but Willis’ eyelids don’t budge.

Because of the inherently emotional nature of the story, Disney’s The Kid might have been more effective with a lighter touch. As it stands, the movie is occasionally funny but never quite reaches the kid inside.

Directed by:
Jon Turteltaub

Bruce Willis
Spencer Breslin
Emily Mortimer
Lily Tomlin
Chi McBride
Nick Chinlund
Richard Jenkins
Jeri Ryan
Jean Smart 
Steve Tom

Written by:
Audrey Wells







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