Jack Kidd is no Mitch Robbins, Billy Crystal’s character from “City Slickers.” Whereas Mitch and his buddies went to a dude ranch on sort of a midlife crisis quest to temporarily escape life in the city, Jack (writer and first-time director Jack Serino) intends for his escape to the Elk Point Dude Ranch to last a little longer. As in forever, satisfying his twin desires of jumping off the dad-enabled corporate ladder, as well as fulfilling his childhood dream of becoming a cowboy.
This city slicker/fish-out-of-water theme forms the core of “The Connecticut Kid,” Serino’s beautiful, if by-the-numbers modern day family western. Like a “probie” in a firehouse, Jack’s a “greenie,” struggling to fit in and earn the respect of his fellow very skeptical cowboys. Mountain Bob (Tom Burruss), the ranch’s genial owner, starts Jack out with a series of menial chores, which is just fine with Luke (Scott Walker), the wary head wrangler who won’t even let the frustrated aspiring cowboy near the corral. Jack gradually learns the ropes, however, helped along by Shawn Evans (Bern Kubiak), a friendly wrangler who takes him under his wing, and soon the backwards baseball cap-wearing Yankee becomes one of Elk Point’s top guides. And just in time, too, as the ranch begins gearing up for an important visit from some influential journalists.
Meanwhile, there’s trouble on the horizon in the glowering form of Billy Joe (Jason Brunner) and his assortment of goons from a rival ranch.
In case you haven’t guessed it by now, there’s not really a single surprise or twist in all of “The Connecticut Kid.” It’s the kind of movie where the sneering villains literally wear black hats.
Yet, the odd thing is we really don’t care. Serino seems almost like a gleeful little kid at times, and his relentless good nature is utterly infectious. Similarly, the boilerplate plotline and caricatured characters are oddly comforting. Every good cowboy, for instance, needs to have a girl and ride a trusty horse, and not necessarily in that order. Check ‘em both off the list here, as Jack falls in love with Mountain Bob’s pretty daughter, Dondi (Cassidy Lunnen) and befriends a beautiful horse named Calypso. As you might imagine, Calypso won’t allow anyone to ride her and is doomed to be sold off…until she and Jack inevitably save the day.
“The Connecticut Kid” is literally a movie from another time. It’s easy to picture this playing as part of a double feature kid’s matinee with “Lassie” at the Pleasantville Bijoux. While I would love to see its stunning snowy mountain vistas on the big screen and get swept away by the film’s brassy “Bonanza”-esque soundtrack, I suspect it instead will find a happy home on The Disney Channel, PAX, or Nickelodeon.
Anti-edgy, deliberately non-controversial, and about as squeaky clean as movies come nowadays, “The Connecticut Kid” pretty much epitomizes the phrase “wholesome family fare.” Oh, and by the way: Someone give Serino some more money so he can make another picture. Like “The Connecticut Kid,” this guy’s a “greenie” no more.