Screenplay : Audrey Wells
MPAA Rating : PG
Year of Release : 2000
Stars : Bruce Willis (Russell Morley Duritz), Spencer Breslin (Rusty), Emily Mortimer (Amy), Lily Tomlin (Janet), Chi McBride (Kenny)
For a corny, life-lesson Disney movie, "The Kid" is really quite good. The premise couldn't be any more saccharine: A rich, misanthropic adult is magically faced with his own eight-year-old self and is forced to reevaluate his life and priorities.
Yet, the movie works somehow, largely on the casting of Bruce Willis in the central role. Over the years, Willis has shown a surprisingly large range and willingness to experiment in movies both large and small. While this has led to involvement in painful embarrassments like "Hudson Hawk" (1991) and "The Color of Night" (1994), it has also put him in films like "Pulp Fiction" (1994) and "The Sixth Sense" (1999) that make good use of his talents.
"The Kid" is another film that uses Willis' abilities well. Within his acting range, one of Willis' talents seems to be displaying irritation (this was on ample display in his stint on "Moonlighting"). As Russe Duritz, an about-to-turn-40 image consultant who works out of Los Angeles, drives a Porsche, lives in a large, modernist mansion, and hates everyone, his primary response to just about every stimulus he encounters is irritation.
He's irritated by a woman next to him on a plane who wants to have a friendly conversation; he's irritated that his father shows up at his office; he's irritated that his loyal executive assistant, Janet (wonderfully played by Lily Tomlin), can tell when he's stressed just by the sound of his voice. Willis embodies this sense of constant irritation as Russ's way of life. Each of his responses is slightly different, but all of them smack of general disgust for the world around him.
Of course, this is not what his eight-year-old self is like. As played by newcomer Spencer Breslin, young Rusty is physically and emotionally the opposite of older Russ. Tubby, clumsy, and curious about everything, Rusty represents the childhood that Russ has spent 32 years trying to forget. Part of the journey in the film involves Russ having to remember his purposefully forgotten childhood and figure out exactly what it was that went wrong and sent him on the path that led him to a soulless profession of helping people lie about themselves and an aimless life in which he has no love interest and, much to Rusty's disgust, no dog.
The arc of the screenplay, written by Audrey Wells ("The Truth About Cats & Dogs"), is obvious from the first page. Will Rusty show Russ how to reclaim his inner child and love the little things in life, like wondering why the moon is orange sometimes? Will Russ help his younger self to be more confident and sure of himself? Will Russ finally see that his assistant, Amy (Emily Mortimer), a woman who is constantly looking for the good in him, is the perfect woman for him to spend his life with?
All of these questions have obvious answers, but the enjoyment in the movie is getting to those answers. While never overwhelming, the movie is often quite funny, with Willis and Breslin creating a nice chemistry of competing selves. While Willis is at his sardonic best, Breslin avoids most of the cutsey traps of child actors, and instead plays a realistic kid who has many faults, but a decent core. Director Jon Turteltaub ("Instinct," "Phenomenon") turns on the syrup a little too heavy at the end (something for which he is known), but by then the story has earned the right to put it on a little thic
©2000 James Kendrick