Disney's 'The Kid'
Disney studio executives must have thought they had died and gone to hog heaven when last year's "The Sixth Sense" became the summer's breakout hit, because they were in production with a Bruce Willis-and-little-boy film of their own, this one called "Disney's 'The Kid.'" Note that the studio put its own name in the title, probably to reassure shaky parents that there was nothing to worry about, like death or loss or real pain, in its movie.
And they were right in one way; there's nothing like real emotion, much less death or loss or pain, that's allowed to come out in "The Kid." There's an obnoxious 40-year-old (Willis) who meets his 8-year-old self (Spencer Breslin), and comes to see what we and everyone else in the film know instantly: The little boy will change this selfish, self-absorbed, mean curmudgeon into -- well, what? -- a man who finally follows his dream. Congratulations.
Willis plays Russ Duritz, an image consultant to sleazy tycoons and politicians. In an instant he can tell them what to do to change their public image, gain affection, reverse the downward course of their lives from potential jail to hero worship. He does meet one honorable person, a TV news anchor (Jean Smart in the film's one believable performance) on her way to L.A. to start her job there, and gives her what turns out to be good career advice, which she repays later in the film in spades.
Young Breslin, apart from the fact that he's the last kid you'd think of to grow up to be Bruce Willis -- among other things he has blue eyes while Willis's are brown -- does a nice job with a role that's underwritten for the importance he has in the film; he has shtick but little personality. Emily Mortimer plays Willis's assistant, the one whom he cannot admit he loves, but who, amazingly, pads after him endlessly, taking all the insults and brusque commands without complaining. And speaking of not complaining, what is Lily Tomlin doing here as Willis's doormat of a secretary? This is the kind of formula film that gives formula films a bad name.
Does everything come out all right in the end? Does Willis finally get in touch with his inner human being? Is Disney's name on the title? At least we can be thankful that the film tanked at the box office.