Rated PG - Running Time: 1:44 - Released 7/7/00

In between his recent tough-guy action films like Armageddon, The Siege, and The Whole Nine Yards, Bruce Willis has begun appearing in movies where his co-stars have been pre-pubescent. Although his role opposite Miko Hughes in Mercury Rising differed little from the action hero persona he has established ever since his Die Hard films, his part in The Sixth Sense, opposite Oscar-nominated Haley Joel Osment, and subsequent fatherly role in The Story Of Us were far kinder and gentler than we're used to. Willis now completes the feel-good journey with Disney's The Kid, a whimsical Scrooge-type story directed by Jon Turteltaub (Instinct) and co-starring 8-year-old Spencer Breslin in his cinematic debut. Written by Audrey Wells (George Of The Jungle), The Kid is intended to please children but also educate adults about the dangers of losing touch with one's inner child. Much like its characters, the film starts out with an adolescent air, but matures somewhat by the final reel.

Willis plays Russell Duritz, a crochety, 40-year-old "image consultant" (a person who tells stars and politicians how to behave) with a rather dim view of humanity in general, who, by some sort of supernatural occurrence that is not delved into, is visited by an eight-year-old version of himself. The kid (Breslin), a clumsy, obnoxious brat with a lateral lisp and a weight problem, immediately begins lambasting his older self about his failure to have a family, or a dog, or a more respectable occupation, like, say, a pilot, which has always been his own first choice. Russ, who does not remember a single day of his childhood because of some deep, dark secret, thinks he is delusional, but eventually grows to appreciate the reason for "Rusty's" arrival. He must recover his lost memory and find the turning point which changed him into the nasty person he has become. Then, if he can alter the course of history, Rusty will return to his own time and Russ can enjoy the life of a happy, dog-owning pilot and family man. Or whatever.

Every Scrooge must have a Crachit, and Russ has his in the person of his too-nice-to-be-working-for-him secretary, Janet (Lily Tomlin). Also present is his assistant, Amy (Emily Mortimer), whose role is not really clear other than being his romantic interest later in the film. Lastly, Jean Smart makes an appearance as a newswoman Russ helped out a few years ago, who resurfaces to become the catalyst for his change.

This is obviously a blowoff role for Willis; apart from a few frantic scenes where he thinks he's crazy, he appears to be reading lines in his sleep. But that's because he knows the real star of the film is Breslin, who is supposed to be cute but is mostly just annoying. There are a few good lines, however (like when Tomlin says, "How's Mini-You?"), and the staggeringly predictable climax provides the guilty emotional pleasure that is a prerequisite in every Disney film. ***

Copyright 2000 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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