You wanna know what grates my cheese? [go ahead, nod. You know you wanna.] Ok, I'll tell ya: doofus creativity-challenged movie executives who cut-n-paste together movie trailers that might as well be released as mini-movies, since they show almost all the best parts of the flick in question (and do so a kabillion times before the movie opens, at that) - and certainly give away way more of the movie than the audience needs to know, not allowing that magical "aha!" moment when we Discover what's happening in a film for our at least halfway-intelligent selves. Between those oafs in the movie business, and their TeeVee promo-creating counterparts, I'd like to round 'em all up and take grandaddy's best belt to their ig'nant little hides, I tell ya.
And if that's the biggest rant I could muster up about Disney's 'The Kid', then I reckon it had to be a pretty decent movie.
THE STORY (WARNING: **spoilers contained below**)
Russ Duritz (Bruce Willis) is, in a word, a jerk. At least, that's what the world thinks of him, and he plays the part well. Russ, a nearly 40-year-old professional image consultant who admittedly gets off on telling people what to do, has little patience for displays of emotion or affection, especially as concerns his father, with whom he has lingering Childhood Issues (which, as we find later, develop into Adult Unfulfillment Issues). Everyone - from his put-upon pseudo girlfriend Amy (the delightful Emily Mortimer), put-upon assistant Janet (the somewhat delightful Lily Tomlin), professional boxer and Russ' client Kenny (the not as delightful, but good looking baldie Chi McBride), and Diedre Lafere (the surprisingly delightful Jean Smart), a very friendly TV anchorwoman he met on a plane - thinks Russ is in dire need of a soul makeover, not to mention, a clue. And he just might find both in 8-year-old Rusty (the sho'nuff delightful Spencer Breslin), who has a whole lot in common with Russ. A younger version of Russ, that is.
Bruce Willis, near as I can tell, has three acting personas: there's the Serious, Silent type, like the characters he played in flicks like The Sixth Sense and Die Hard [1 only; 2 and 3 were pale imitations. See also: Mel Gibson in "Lethal Weapons 2-36"]; the Sincerely Humorous type that he shared with his audience in the early days of the Moonlighting TV series; and then there's the Gotta Get Pi-zaid type that helped to further stink up an already malodorous Hudson Hawk. Of the three, I prefer his Sincerely Humorous persona. That's the one that showed up in Kid - and from all appearances, his co-stars grooved with that persona, too.
Willis performs remarkably well as a man who has filled his life with Big Status-y Things to try (unsuccessfully) to fill the gaps that come from a life's dream deferred. Neither mawkish nor completely irredeemable (consider: would a total jerk really pay for someone else's groceries, just to get out of a grocery store quickly? Force his way through the line, sure; but, pay in full?), his Russ has a mid-life crisis of a different sort than we're used to seeing. Here, Russ' discovery comes through the mirror of his younger self, who sees the "small" things older Russ doesn't have - a meaningful job, a family, heck, even a dog [how could he not have a dog, sheesh!] - as the true mark of a life gone wrong. It would be easy for that character to be played as a kick-me target to laughed at; it is much to Willis' credit that, for the most part, he avoids derision in that sense.
Each of the lead actors and their characters seemed to Play Well with Willis - and he, in turn, gets an A for Sharing Playspace (Reasonably) Nicely with them. Emily Mortimer was a nice discovery for me here (though, I must admit, she would've made a better "best friend" type for Russ than a possible girlfriend. Jean Smart absolutely sizzled on-screen and provided more than a match for Bruce Willis; hard to understand [she said, tongue firmly in-cheek] why the choice was made to pair Willis with the younger actress instead. Ah, Hollyweird). The screeching irritant of Renee Zellwiger in Me, Myself, & Irene having been the last (non-cartoon) female lead I'd been exposed to, Mortimer provided a pleasant contrast in her very user-friendly approach to a character that could've easily been played as cloying and pathetic in the wrong hands. Mortimer's "hands" reminded me of some of the better works of actress Minnie Driver; I look forward to seeing more of Mortimer in movies to come.
Similarly, both Jean Smart and Spencer Breslin exceeded my expectations. Smart, most notably known for her time on CBS-TV in Designing Women, was always too broad a broad in that show; here, she kept the Good Ol' Girl drawl in check, delivering a much more subtle, yet substantial, performance in a role that was kind of strangely written in the first place. It threatened to be overwritten, but she pulled it off nonetheless. And even though many of his best lines were already trailer-spoiled, Breslin's Rusty, bless his chubby little heart, had me in stitches at times, and - remembering my own sometimes torturous childhood - nearly in tears at others. If nothing else, he deserves hosannas for having more in common with child actor Haley Joel Osment from The Sixth Sense, than with the bratty Macaulay Culkin from Home Alone (for now, at least. I'll keep a good thought for Breslin; we don't need another Culkin loosed upon us).
That's not to say, of course, that Disney's 'The Kid' didn't have its faults. Kid almost included too many characters (Chi McBride's boxer Kenny, who Russ seeks out to help him teach Rusty how to defend himself, was right on the edge of being a Diversity Addendum), the smarmily-cute level got notched up near 11 a couple of times, and some obvious Issues (for instance, the big How'd It All Happen In The First Place question) might have, in a lesser flick, left me gasping for fresh air. But Kid had enough good clean fun, acted and filmed breezily, to balance it all out. I found myself laughing, and smiling, with ease, throughout this Disney flick.
Issues of trailer-spoilage by numbnut preview creators aside (which, to its credit, the movie overcame), you'll learn nothing new in Kid that you haven't seen before in other "childhood reversal" flicks like Big (Kid's sibling in overall theme), for instance. Then again, it might just be that in our rush to get from Here to There, we adults have forgotten those lessons that Big and Kid are trying to teach us, if we'd only listen. Or maybe, it's just as good an excuse as any to laugh at ourselves for an hour our two. Can't beat that with a stick, eh?
THE "BLACK FACTOR"   [ObDisclaimer: We Are Not A Monolith]
Not for nothin', but it must be said: whathell was Kevon Edmonds thinking???
(Watch the movie, during the wedding scene, or buy the soundtrack. You'll see - better yet, you'll hear - what I mean).
BAMMER'S BOTTOM LINE
If you liked Tom Hanks' turn in Big - and I loved Tom Hanks' turn in Big - you'll like this flick. Disney's 'The Kid' is a feel-good movie that won't leave you feeling guilty for playing along with it, even though kids were watching and laughing at the same jokes as we adults laughed at. Now if I could just hunt down the stoopid trailer-makers that give away damn near the whole movie, like the vermin that they are...
DISNEY'S 'THE KID':
I wouldn't be a kid again if you paid me; but I wonder how 8-year-old Rose would Like Me Now. Hmmm...
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