Disney's The Kid

Directed by Jon Turteltaub
Starring: Bruce Willis, Spencer Breslin, Emily Mortimer, Lily Tomlin.
MPAA Rating: PG for mild language.

Review by Matt Heffernan
July 7, 2000

Charlie Chaplin changed the face of film comedy with 1921's The Kid -- the first great feature-length comedy after years of two-reel shorts. Chaplin was not only a genius when it came to directing and performing in films, he had a great mind for the business side, as well. To this day, his rights are tightly controlled by his estate, so when Disney made a film entitled The Kid that was vaguely similar, but not a remake, they had to change the title. Typical of Disney's near lack of creativity these days, they settled on Disney's The Kid, which barely honors the rights.

There is no Little Tramp here, just Bruce Willis as Russell Duritz, a wealthy image consultant with an ironically abrasive personality. Indeed, he is called "jerk" far more often than "Russell", yet he excells at teaching other people how to act in order to achieve a positive public image. He is about to turn 40, and he is still unmarried with only his job in his life.

While he's driving in his Porsche convertible, a red biplane buzzes him, just inches above his head. Apparently, nobody else on the highway saw it, which makes him worried. Then he returns home to find a little boy (Spencer Breslin) sneaking around his house. This boy is actually Russell as an eight-year-old, magically transported from 1968. Now he believes that he has had a nervous breakdown. He introduces the boy to his assistant (Lily Tomlin), and she also sees him, so he knows this is for real.

From there, I'm sure you can see where this is going. Russell's outer child helps him get in touch with his inner child, so that he can be less of a jerk, and get the girl (Emily Mortimer). Of course, you can see all that from the trailer, so why go see the film? Good question. One answer may be to see the plump and excessively cute Breslin mimicking Willis. Sure, that can grab the attention for a few minutes. Mortimer's a very pretty girl, even though it isn't acknowledged by Willis in their virtually non-existent romance.

Now, is that worth the eight dollars you earned while slaving over a burger grill for 90 minutes? Certainly not. You went to see The Sixth Sense (against my wishes), so Disney and Willis already have plenty of your money. All you would get would be a few laughs, and a lot of lazy sentimentality. Not to mention further reminders of Willis' inability to play a character that is not Bruce Willis in the face of true talent, like Tomlin's.

Here's what you can do: scrape together three dollars, and go rent Chaplin's film. In that version, the kid (Jackie Coogan) is a poignant reminder of the Tramp's own miserable childhood. No high concept, no big red plane to distract you, just a touching story with a warm, hearty sense of humor.

For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Disney's The Kid (2000)

Here's some merchandise for sale at Amazon.com
The Kid (2000) -- VHS
The Kid (2000) -- DVD

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Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan