“The Kid,” contrary to what the other kids might say, is a competent, systematically entertaining summer movie. And, in a summer filled with movies so far that suck a*s compared to their over-hype, that’s saying a lot. “The Kid” is a little like a freshly neutered cat–benign, non-confrontational, won’t mess with the furniture, a kitty the whole family can play with. And, I’m not just saying this because “The Kid”‘s kid-star Spencer Breslin is my illegitimate love-child–really, all the rumors are false–it’s because, clearly, if there’s anything we’ve learned by July of 2000, it’s that competence is the new goal these days for Hollywood movies of the masses.
“The Kid” is a story about a cranky grown man, Russ Duritz (Bruce Willis), in denial of his inner-kid, an attitudinally anal image-consultant who–a guy after my own heart–likes to be mean for fun. Willis does what Willis always does–stands around looking self-consciously smirky while hoping no one notices his hair plugs–but in that innocuous type of way that makes him so palatable. A first big chunk of “The Kid” is spent following Russ around as he acts like a big stinker to his assistant Janet (Lily Tomlin), his love-interest Amy (Emily Mortimer), and all of his image-consulting-deprived clients. Indeed, it bodes, payback is a comin’.
Soon, a spooky little specter of a kid starts running around the Duritz compound. As it turns out, a nice little younger Russ, Rusty (Spencer Breslin), has shown up to teach his older-self a few life lessons. The two boys are parallel oxymorons: Rusty’s approaching his 8th birthday, Russ his critical 40th; Rusty’s a fattycakes spitty-mouthed goober, Russ is obsessed with appearing to be a hyper in command man at all times. Luckily for Disney, Breslin shines as the movie’s real talent with the natural breadth to range from smart-a*s precocious to vulnerably dear. “The Kid” is at its best when the Breslin Kid is on-camera, and Willis benefits performance-wise as the two proceed down memory lane for a little personal revisionism.
Eventually, the boys end up growing-up together, and discover that the world sometimes goes deeper than external images. Sniff. “The Kid” is what it is–always earnest, sometimes soppy, and undeniably simple. But, hey, it made me feel good, and I don’t even like to feel good. It’s a little long–director Jon Turtletaub (“While You Were Sleeping”) may have been a bit ignorant of the patience of real kids–and comes up a little short with the kid’s POV for the kids. But, in all, “The Kid” won’t make you tear out your eyes if you’ve got nowhere to be on a Sunday afternoon with the small people and have your own special fondness for the darkened world of air-conditioned theaters.