Like I Am Sam, The Kid & I features a handicapped protagonist and a gooey plot that are impossible to knock. But on-screen fantasies, heart-wrenching vulnerabilities and upbeat good intentions aside, there's a cruel off-screen world of box-office realities that brought Sam and will bring The Kid crashing to earth.

Written by its star Tom Arnold for his real-life neighbor and co-star Eric Gores, The Kid & I tells the story of challenged lives redeemed when an unlikely pair crosses paths and makes a movie together. Impoverished Bill (Arnold) is a has-been Hollywood writer who tries suicide but can't even succeed at that. Enter his sleazy agent Johnny (Henry Winkler) with an offer no one and certainly not Bill could refuse and only an old-style Hollywood movie could dream up. Bill's got a gig, thanks to wealthy entrepreneur Davis (Joe Mantegna), who wants a movie made but not seen, as it's to star Davis' 18-year-old son Aaron (Gores), afflicted with cerebral palsy and a passion for James Cameron's True Lies.

With the kind of enthusiasm, money and connections Hollywood loves and rewards, Aaron is mad about action films and babes and wants to be an actor. For Bill, the gig and its half-a-mil fee have come in the nick of time. He needs pronto an assistant and a producer. So, being in a relationship business, he brings on board Guy (Richard Edson), a booze-loving bum neighbor who, ensconced lavishly with Bill at Davis' estate, settles in poolside to "assist" by downing cocktails and ogling girls. For producer, Bill enlists powerhouse Susan (Terminator star Linda Hamilton), his ex-wife. (Kid director Penelope Spheeris stays, cameo-like, very much in the background as the director of the film within the film.)

With a bountiful music soundtrack that rarely stops for breath, The Kid & I spends some fun time sending up moviemaking Hollywood-style and the big-budget action genre with all its excesses. There are also the requisite conflicts and reverses before the inevitable happy ending. For his part, co-star Gores often delights with his unabashed fervor and hamminess.

The film's roots in real life work in its favor, especially in bringing much-needed sympathy to the young hero and those supporting him. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis, appearing in cameos, are part of this support team, as are Tom Arnold and executive producers Jordan Katz and Marie L. Fyhrie, who work with Gores' financier father Alec at Gores Technology Group.

Beyond its frames, the film works most poignantly as a testament to a father's love and an unapologetic celebration of Hollywood's m.o. But, given the film's provenance, its "We can all be heroes" message is a tad disingenuous.

-Doris Toumarkine