Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Title: Disney's The Kid: Special Edition (2000)
Studio Line: Disney - Nobody ever grows up quite like they imagined.

International superstar Bruce Willis (The Whole Nine Yards, The Sixth Sense), along with Lily Tomlin (9 To 5, Tea With Mussolini), Emily Mortimer (Scream 3, Notting Hill) and newcomer Spencer Breslin star in the hilarious and heartwarming comedy Disney's The Kid. Successful, high-powered Russ Duritz (Willis) has spent all of his incredibly empty life forgetting the child he used to be -- until one day, he meets him face-to-face! Thinking this kid is a hallucination, Russ does everything he can to make him go away. But 8-year-old Rusty (Breslin), who's anything but happy that he grows up to be a loser without real meaning in his life, can't leave -- at least not yet. At once funny and charming, Disney's The Kid is a magical comedy that's filled with adult-sized laughs.

Director: Jon Turteltaub
Cast: Bruce Willis, Spencer Breslin, Emily Mortimer, Lily Tomlin, Chi McBride, Jean Smart
Box Office: Budget: $65 million. Opening Weekend: $12.687 million (2167 screens). Gross: $69.688 million.
DVD: Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9; audio English DD 5.1, Spanish & French DD 5.1; subtitles Spanish; closed-captioned; single sided - dual layered; 24 chapters; rated PG; 104 min.; $29.99; street date 1/23/01.
Supplements: Audio Commentary With Director Jon Turteltaub & Spencer Breslin; Exclusive Behind-The-Scenes Featurette - From Casting The Role Of The Kid To Becoming "The Kid" - From Spencer Breslin's Point Of View; Conversations With Jon Turteltaub; Theatrical Trailer.
Purchase: DVD

Picture/Sound/Extras: B+/B+/B

Our latest entry in the “most awkwardest title ever!” category is 2000’s Disney’s The Kid. That’s right - the movie’s not called The Kid. It has to be DISNEY’S The Kid, and don’t you forget it!

While it’s an odd name for a movie - especially since it sounds like “Disney’s” may be a contraction for “Disney is” instead of the possessive actually used - I guess it makes sense. After all, there have been a number of movies with the same name released over the years. The most notable of these is 1921’s Charlie Chaplin flick, and I suppose it makes sense for Disney to attempt to make it clear that the new film isn’t a remake of that one.

Not that this means DTK is anything approaching original, however. Stop me if you’ve heard this before: supernatural event causes bitter, friendless man to reevaluate his life and become more like the person he wanted to be when he was young. Sound familiar? Dickens would spin in his grave if he saw what Disney had done with the basic framework of A Christmas Carol (though I suppose the many treacly versions of that story would already have given him a headache).

In DTK, hot-shot “image consultant” Russ Duritz (Bruce Willis) has no time for a life outside of his work; he learned long ago to drive himself mercilessly and that compassion and affection are for the week. As his 40th birthday approaches, a pudgy little kid (Spencer Breslin) mysteriously materializes in his house. Before too long, they deduce that “the kid” is Russ himself at the age of almost-eight, so they then just need to figure out why he’s there.

A few others learn “the kid’s” identity, including Russ’ long-suffering assistant Janet (Lily Tomlin) and his co-worker/pseudo-girlfriend Amy (Emily Mortimer of Scream 3). Oddly, no one ever seems to question just how the tubby tyke got there; everyone appears to blithely accept his magical appearance.

The plot follows an incredibly predictable trajectory. Russ resists his younger self and tries to ignore him, but eventually he develops positive feelings for the boy and the two team up to work out the solution to the problem. Bonding and life lessons occur, and everyone’s happy.

Except me, however, because I had to sit through this saccharine drivel. DTK is a virtually charmless film that did nothing to make its shop-worn plot more compelling or palatable. Most elements of the movie are terribly syrupy; even when older Russ is touted as a serious bastard, he never seems all that rude or nasty. That’s because this kind of picture won’t stoop to the appropriate level, or perhaps Willis just didn’t want to go that far. All I know is that older Russ lacked any form of Scrooge-like intensity that would make his transformation remarkable or even remotely interesting.

It didn’t help that his younger self wasn’t any more likable. Breslin is a rather talentless kid who seems to have been cast just for his cutesy face. He can’t act a lick, and he comes across as terrifically obnoxious throughout the film. Frankly, I couldn’t stand the kid; he represents everything that’s wrong with child actors.

Tomlin is absolutely wasted in the minor and thankless role of Janet, and Mortimer does little more than look cute and seem awfully young for a romantic fling with Willis. (For the record, he’s 16 years older than she, which I guess isn’t too huge a gap, but she appears a bit younger.) The remainder of the supporting cast has no time to make an impact, as the vast majority of the film sticks with the two Rustys.

One scene in DTK worked for me. Older Russ briefly gets to see his long-dead mother, and Willis displays a glimmer of honest emotionality that seems very believable. It’s the closest thing to a moment of truth in this otherwise cartoony fare.

I like Willis for the most part, but his work here showcases his weakest tendencies. He’s just a smirk with nowhere to go, and director Jon Turteltaub appears to want to stick with such superficiality. Granted, no one expected a classic from Disney’s The Kid; at most, the film might have offered a reasonably entertaining flick in the vein of movies like Freaky Friday. Theoretically, I suppose it could have approached the heights of Big - easily the best film in this genre - but it stays low to the ground. It’s an whiny affair that provided no entertainment value or charm.

The DVD:

Disney’s The Kid appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While the movie presented a few concerns, as a whole it looked nicely clear and vivid.

Sharpness usually seemed crisp and well-defined. At times, some shots appeared slightly soft and hazy; this was a problem mainly during interior scenes, which could look a little muddy. However, most of the movie was accurate and detailed. A few moiré effects occurred in blinds, but these were minor, and I saw no signs of jagged edges. Print flaws seemed largely non-existent. I witnessed a few white speckles and a little black grit, but there was nothing too major to be found. For the most part, the movie presented a clean image.

Colors occasionally tended to seem a bit excessively heavy and thick. This concerns occurred mainly during interiors, and I saw some brownish tints to skin tones at times. However, most hues were accurate and solidly saturated without any bleeding or noise, and they usually looked bright and bold. Black levels came across as dark and rich, and though shadow detail occasionally was a little too opaque, most low light scenes seemed appropriately dim and viewable. DTK wasn’t a “reference-quality” transfer, but it appeared pretty good nonetheless.

Also solid though unspectacular was the film’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. As one might expect from a light comedy such as DTK, the soundfield seemed heavily oriented toward the forward spectrum. From the front speakers I heard very nice stereo separation of music, and some solid usage of ambient effects also appeared on the sides. When appropriate, these sounds meshed together neatly and cleanly. Surrounds mainly just bolstered the score; though a few effects occasionally popped up back there, the track largely concerned itself with music. All of that was fine for this sort of movie; the soundfield seemed very appropriate.

Audio quality sounded strong. Dialogue was usually natural and distinct with no problems related to intelligibility. On occasion I detected some minor edginess, and a few lines seemed a bit shrill, but these were the exceptions. Effects were quite clean and realistic, and at times they betrayed some nice depth; the roars of both car and biplane engines sounded full and rich. The film’s score also was bright and dynamic, with clear highs and tight lows. Frankly, the quality of the audio was what boosted it to a “B+”, since the soundfield was (appropriately) limited in scope; it’s not a wild ride of a mix, but it sounded quite good for the most part.

In the “Special Features” department we discover a nice complement of supplements, starting with an unusual audio commentary. In this running screen-specific track, we hear from director Jon Turteltaub plus pint-sized star Spencer Breslin. The two were recorded simultaneously, and it’s a miracle Turteltaub doesn’t kill the kid, as Breslin constantly interrupts, goes off-task, and generally acts like a little boy.

Oh wait - he is a little boy! As such, this is actually a fairly entertaining track. It’s not the most informative piece I’ve ever heard, but it does toss in a fair amount of data about the film, and the odd dynamic created by Breslin’s presence makes the commentary surprisingly fun. The little guy still seems like an obnoxious kid, but since I wasn’t the one who had to endure him, the track’s a funny experience.

In addition to this commentary, we find a few other supplements. There’s a brief but decent text biography of director Turteltaub plus the film’s theatrical trailer. “A Kid Becomes The Kid” provides four different sequences that trace Breslin’s path on the film. “The Search Begins” covers the talent search and shows some of Breslin’s test footage in this five minute and 20 second segment. “He-e-e-e-re’s Spencer!” goes for four minutes and five seconds and looks at Breslin’s work on the set. “Becoming Bruce Willis” focuses on the acting process for a little guy and takes five minutes and 15 seconds. Lastly, “It’s a Wrap!” runs for one minute and 40 seconds and basically just shows a little footage from the movie’s premiere.

All of the pieces combine pseudo-narration from Breslin with interview snippets from participants like Willis, Turteltaub, and Breslin’s mom plus lots of material from the set. It’s the latter aspects of the segments that make them fun. We see a lot of entertaining and charming footage that makes the experience much more rich and compelling than it should be. I still don’t much like Breslin, but I really enjoyed these little looks behind the scenes.

Next, we get “Conversations With Director Jon Turteltaub”. This eight-minute and 20-second program showcases interview snippets with Turteltaub; these clips are interspersed with movie snippets from throughout his career, behind the scenes shots from these sets, and also a few sound bites from the actors with whom Turteltaub’s worked. Despite the brevity of the piece, it’s actually fairly informative and interesting. I’m not wild about Turteltaub’s work, but he explains his ideas clearly and provides a nice look at his methods.

Lastly, we find the often-disliked “forced trailers” that appear at the start of many Disney DVDs. Here we get ads for the video releases of Dinosaur, Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure, Fantasia 2000, and Toy Story 2. As always, these can be easily skipped with the press of a button on your remote; as such, they don’t bother me at all.

Disney’s The Kid offers a charmless and derivative experience. A fairly-talented cast can’t overcome the slow pace and absence of laughs, fun or poignancy. The DVD provides pretty good but unspectacular picture and sound plus a decent group of extras. If you’re desperate for some fairly harmless family entertainment, DTK might mildly amuse some little ones, but otherwise it should be avoided.

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