The end of the year is fast approaching, and after today I only have to watch three more kids’ movies.
Looper, with no blunderbusses. (Blunderbi?)
A few days before his fortieth birthday, successful LA image consultant Russ Duritz finds a strangely familiar child in his bachelor pad of a home. This youngster turns out to be Russ Duritz himself, aged eight. Initially disbelieving, older Russ decides that Rusty (the young version) is there so that Russ can save him from being a loser, only to find out that maybe it’s the other way round.
What is it with Bruce Willis and time travel movies? I can’t think of any other actor who has done as many unrelated flicks that all involve Bruno confronting his younger self. This is the family-friendly version (as the title suggests) and while there may be no big guns or tooth ripping, it’s still as eminently enjoyable as just about everything else he has done (except North. That was just garbage). Bruce may be the star, but the flick belongs to young Spencer Breslin as Rusty, whose wide-eyed innocence turns out to be infectious to just about everybody.
Disney’s The Kid is a time travel flick but it is by no means science fiction. There is no explanation given for what has happened; it might as well be the Flying Spaghetti Monster who pulled Rusty into the future with His Noodley Appendage. For a movie like this, that approach works just fine. Trying to shoe-horn in a MacGuffin to justify everything would have only clogged things up. This way, the story of Russ getting in touch with himself gets to stand on its own two feet.
There are three Aaron Sorkin veterans among the supporting cast. Lily Tomlin as Russ’ assistant is basically playing the same character she would take along to The West Wing a year or so later. Emily Mortimer – currently riding Jeff Daniels’ back in The Newsroom – is Amy, the colleague Russ discovers he is in love with only after 8-year-old Rusty proposes to her. Honestly I can’t blame him. She’s a fun character, just as full of snark as Russ himself, but with a warmth that makes her believable. I said there were three vets, didn’t I? There’s a prize for whoever can spot the third*.
The screenplay by Audrey Wells examines the idea of second chances with an enviable lightness of touch, using the Russes’ sarcastic interactions to generally avoid the cloying sentimentality that a lot of Disney’s live-action movies fall into. John Turteltaub’s direction plays up the wish-fulfillment aspect well, but still manages to leave the ending somewhat ambiguous. How much of what happened happened? Was it all real or was Russ just having a long overdue nervous breakdown? You can decide for yourself.
The focus on older Russ means that Disney’s The Kid might be a bit too mature for the kids to watch on their own, but it’s certainly strong enough for a family movie night.
*Subject to availability.