By Merle Bertrand | October 16, 2001

Things can sure change in a hurry. And if you don’t believe me, just ask young J.T. Vaughn (Oliver Adams). One day he was just an ordinary kid growing up with two parents and his pets. Then, in the blink of an eye, he suddenly finds himself an orphan, desperately negotiating with the well-meaning but naive social worker Cindy (Meredith Basinger) in an all out attempt to avoid being sent to a foster home. His only hope lies with tracking down a grandfather whom he’s never even met. Armed only with the address barely visible on a faded old photograph, J.T. flees on his bike from the boarding house, arriving at his grandpa Jerry’s (Murray Leaward) house.
Though he doesn’t exactly throw his arms open in welcome, the understandably wary Jerry at least allows the boy to spend the night. What follows is a halting dance, as the suspicious but lonely old grouch and his desperate, starved for acceptance grandson fumble their way towards at least a mutual recognition, if not exactly love and a Hallmark moment.
Director Thomas Kuo presents a good old-fashioned tugging on the heartstrings drama with his short “Jerry and the Kid.” The film is a little frustratingly vague at times; never letting us quite get a good look at J.T.’s photograph, for instance, or even being totally clear that his parents are, in fact, dead. Nor do we ever find out who was to blame for the fallout and ensuing estrangement between Jerry and his son, J.T.’s father.
Not that that’s essential to the story, really, but it might have been nice to know. Then again, maybe it’s more appropriate that we the viewers, like J.T., don’t really know; that we approach the crusty but remorseful old man with the same hesitations and mixed emotions as the young boy himself.
In any event, “Jerry and the Kid” works fairly well for the most part. Even its ending, while wistful if not downright melancholy, is as appropriate as it is unsatisfying. Or maybe it’s appropriate BECAUSE it’s unsatisfying…for now. But even that feeling, as J.T. will learn, will probably change with time.

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