DISNEY'S THE KID

PG
Reviews

In this summer of dashed box-office hopes, it's highly unlikely that Disney's The Kid will prove as popular as the previous two movies Bruce Willis did for the studio-1998's Armageddon and last year's surprise blockbuster, The Sixth Sense. And whatever success this fun but flimsy bit of family fluff does achieve won't be due to Willis (relaxed and comfortable in an offbeat role), but to the bombastic butterball of a kid, newcomer Spencer Breslin, who has the title role.

He's something else. At age eight, New York-born Breslin is a five-year acting veteran who has appeared in various TV dramas as well as commercials. (At three, he was able to perfectly recite, for McDonald's, the tongue-twisting line, 'two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.') The Kid is Breslin's first movie-he won out over 2,000 hopefuls in a nationwide talent search, according to Disney-but it surely will not be his last. Even an old pro like Bruce Willis sometimes seems totally blown away by the natural comic gifts and spontaneity of his mini co-star-who plays his very own 'mini me.'

As an about-to-be 40-year-old adult, Russ (Willis) is a Los Angeles image consultant with a deserved reputation for being good at his job but lousy as a sensitive and caring person. The house he lives in perfectly reflects his personality: hard-edged, cold and protected by a complex set of security barriers. It's surprising that this brute of a man can command the apparent respect of a trio of truly nice women in his life-his laid-back, seen-everything secretary, Janet (Lily Tomlin); his efficient and perky assistant, Amy (Emily Mortimer); and a sympathetic stranger he meets on a plane (Jean Smart). But that's the script's way of telling us there's something in Russ we don't yet see.

Enter an intruder into Russ' tightly guarded domain. In the middle of the night, he discovers this kid in his living room-playing with a toy plane that had belonged to Russ when he was a boy. But the kid says, no, its his plane, and, see, written under the wings, there's his name-Rusty. The best moments in The Kid are when Russ and Rusty make the shocking discovery that they are one and the same-and Rusty begins to learn about his dismal future while Russ relives his hope-filled past. As anyone who's seen this film's TV commercials and/or previews will know, it suddenly dawns on Rusty that he's going to grow up to be a loser-with no wife, no kids, no pilot's license and, worst of all, no dog!

The remaider of the plot is totally predictable, and as noted, extremely flimsy. Yes, Rusty helps Russ unlock painful memories; yes, man and boy grow to understand and learn from each other. And yes, as revealed in The Kid's syrupy final scenes, Russ not only confronts his past, but also faces his future-to see that he can change, and that he will have everything his child self had wished for him.

Thus The Kid is a recycling of the old, time-tested Disney credo: A kid's dreams can come true. Now, let's hope the studio will soon find a better vehicle to fulfill the acting dreams of a very talented kid named Spencer Breslin.

--Shirley Sealy