What To Watch: A Major Freakout in Disney’s ‘The Kid’ (2000)
A fun family adventure Disney film starring Bruce Willis.
Disney’s The Kid is a 2000 comedy about an unhappy and disliked image consultant who gets a second shot at life when he is mysteriously confronted by an eight-year-old version of himself.
Not to be confused with the classic Charlie Chaplin comedy/drama The Kid, which is a very different film indeed, Disney’s The Kid does sort of have some similar themes that connect the two, both about men who go through a revelation about themselves and more, though this one is certainly via a more fantastical route. It’s a broadly drawn film with a very clear message, but it’s formula is well mixed and acted, even as it plucks on our emotional strings like a movie maestro. A solid box office success and critically-favored for its performances, it’s a fun family adventure with an unexpected turn by its star. Let’s take a look.
THE STORY: Directed by Jon Turteltaub, who is probably best known for the National Treasure films, the movie follows Russ Duritz (Bruce Willis), a self-absorbed, arrogant, and hopelessly personally-motivated image consultant who is a remarkable success though has no friends and is pretty much disliked by everyone, including his staff, Janet (Lily Tomlin) and Amy (Emily Mortimer) who both try to find the good in him but always come up short. He’s just not a nice guy.
The problem lately is that Russ is experiencing what he believes are hallucinations when he keeps seeing a red prop plane and a boy in a red jacket, the latter actually inside his house. Obviously concerning, he goes to get some professional help, but soon finds out that, yup, the kid is actually him as an eight-year-old boy. You probably saw that coming. Russ, well, not so much. He has a spazzy episode of sorts that’s not helped when little Rusty, having assessed what lies in his future, proclaims he’s grown up to be a loser. That’s funny. Now the two have to figure out what is going on and help each other become better at who they are. Sprinkle in some Disney magic, stir well, and serve.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: We’re not necessarily treading on new ground here of course, the idea of a person forced to look back at their lives one we’ve seen plenty of times before, from any iteration of Charles Dickens‘ A Christmas Carol to James Stewart‘s A Wonderful Life to Jennifer Garner‘s cheerless 13 Going on 30 to the less well-known but very satisfying James Belushi comedy Mr. Destiny and many in-between. Disney is not about to rewrite the book, only looking to redress some of the standards and with that in mind, it mostly works with the idea that there’s probably not a one of us who wouldn’t want to talk to our younger selves. I know I’d have a thing or two to say.
That in mind, Turteltaub, and a script by Audrey Wells, really keeps things motoring along with plenty of upbeat and touching moments that work surprisingly well. This is a high-energy movie propelled by its little mystery but more so the performances with young Rusty played by Spencer Breslin in an amusing turn as the pugnacious titular kid. He’s a lot of fun to watch, but not nearly as fun as Willis who veers off the action hero path he’d become known for and shows he’s just as good at getting laughs as he is at shooting bad guys. We have to remember that this is actually the kind of stuff that got him noticed in the first place, his Emmy-winning work on television’s Moonlighting a perfect stage for his physical pratfalls and comedy charms, something that earned him his first big break playing John McClane in Die Hard. He’s the whole show here, even with some great supporting work from both Tomlin and Mortimer who lend a lot to movie’s softer side.
A GREAT MOMENT: So knowing that, one of the best moments comes fairly early when Russ actually finds Rusty in his house one night, this after a series of encounters that begins to rub a raw nerve with the stress-addled consultant. In the scene, the older Russ has already seen a shrink and got himself some meds, thinking he’s just seeing things, but this time, it’s far too real. This is an actual child in his house … and there’s something oddly familiar about him.
The kid senses it too and the two share a moment comparing scars and other bits that reveal indeed they are the same person, thirty years apart. This causes the older Russ to go a little out of his head, and as he stumbles about the house talking to himself, he ends up in the kitchen to make a sandwich, thinking the process will stabilize well, whatever is happening to him. It doesn’t. Bread and tomatoes fly about the room.
Willis really is the thing here, spinning a number of plates, and not a one topples as he runs a pretty wide gamut of emotions. We tend to think of physical comedy as something easy to do but that’s only because the best who do it make it look so. A good freakout on screen takes a lot of skill to make it work, and Willis hits it just right keeping the uptight character he’s playing tucked nicely into the nervous breakdown he’s convinced he’s having. It’s funny stuff.
THE TALLY: Disney’s The Kid is a pretty innocuous little film but is greatly buoyed by some strong performances and good direction. Disney didn’t get to where it is by churning out poor quality movies, even if they do get a little rote once in awhile. Sure,The Kid is pretty easy to follow and there’s no surprises where it’s going, but sometimes the ride there is more fun. Look for some cool cameos, including Melissa McCarthy and Matthew Perry (who appears uncredited). A great family film filled with heart and humor, this is what to watch.