At the Movies: `Disney's The Kid'

Wednesday, July 5th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Bruce Willis may grow tired of being upstaged by children.

Haley Joel Osment ran off with the show in last year's ``The Sixth Sense,'' and this time, 8-year-old chubby cherub Spencer Breslin steals what little thunder there is to rumble about in Willis' latest, ``Disney's The Kid.''

This one's so thickly and sickly sweet, Willis probably should have borrowed from his ``Sixth Sense'' persona and played dead rather than sign on.

The premise is promising: On the cusp of his 40th birthday, an overbearing loner of an image consultant named Russ Duritz (Willis) magically meets his embarrassing 8-year-old self, Rusty (Breslin).

Rusty is a starry-eyed, nose-picking geek whom the hard-edged Russ has worked a lifetime to exorcise.

``I've forgotten my childhood,'' Russ pronounces. ``My childhood is in the past, where it belongs.''

Predictably, Russ' childhood doesn't remain in the past. While his adult self sets out to toughen up the dweebish Rusty, it's the boy who becomes mentor to the man. Rusty offers observations about what's lacking in his older self's world, the things Russ craved as a child: no dog, no wife, no family, no pilot's license and airplane. Mainly, no life.

``I grow up to be a loser!'' Rusty exclaims.

There's plenty of crowd-pleasing humor in ``The Kid,'' mainly from Breslin and Lily Tomlin, who plays Russ' sarcastic but loyal office assistant. The movie could have used more screen time with the acerbic Tomlin, and Breslin runs circles around Willis with his winsome, whiny delivery.

Willis' smirking, comic smarminess is ineffective here, lacking the breeziness of his ``Moonlighting'' days on television. Director Jon Turteltaub strives so hard early on to paint Russ as a cad in need of a makeover that Willis becomes downright unlikable at times.

Jean Smart makes a fine showing as an engaging TV anchorwoman who has a couple of brief but insightful meetings with Russ. As the nominal love interest, though, Emily Mortimer is relegated to an impossible struggle, making an audience accept that a pert, pretty, sensible woman could be inexplicably enamored of nasty Russ.

The intriguing idea of ``The Kid'' is squandered with a simpleminded story line that never meaningfully scratches the surface of questions most people ask themselves: Is this all I am? What happened to my childhood dreams? What if I had a second chance?

The movie goes for gut laughs while feeding sugar water to the heart and Sweet 'N Low to the head.

In an encounter with Rusty's idealized vision of his adult self, there's an unsatisfying explanation of the magic that threw big kid and little kid together.

And one of the movie's most notable flaws is Marc Shaiman's relentless, obtrusive score, which violates a cardinal rule of movie composing: If they're conscious of the music, it's distracting them from the film.

Despite its many laughs, ``The Kid'' proves as forgettable as the little-boy dreams that Willis forgot to remember.

``Disney's The Kid'' is rated PG for mild language and runs 104 minutes.


Motion Picture Association of America rating definitions:

G — General audiences. All ages admitted.

PG — Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

PG-13 — Special parental guidance strongly suggested for children under 13. Some material may be inappropriate for young children.

R — Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

NC-17 — No one under 17 admitted.