Supernatural child-bonding having paid off so handsomely last summer, Bruce Willis in The Kid (or Disney’s The Kid, like Jesus’ Son) once again plays a dead-inside workaholic who, with the help of a disturbed youngster, stumbles toward the enlightened path. Willis’s snide, selfish image consultant has a phone headset grafted to his skull and a moony, masochistic girlfriend (Emily Mortimer) who puts up with his bullshit only because, she explains, “Once in a while I get a glimpse of the kid in you.” Cue the titular scamp—a screeching, supremely irritating eight-year-old (Spencer Breslin) who turns out to be Bruce as a child—and much odd-couple downtime as our hero(es) slowly discovers that the child is the father of the man.
The Kid‘s pedigree stretches all over the pop-cult map, from A Christmas Carol (or rather, Richard Donner’s Scrooged) to spousal counterpart Passion of Mind to Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Timecop, which meditated on the grave consequences of material meddling with the space-time continuum—concerns eschewed by Audrey Wells’s sub-Fox Family Channel script in lieu of Freud 101 set pieces, including a boxing match between Big Bruce and Little Bruce. Director Jon Turteltaub, culpable for Phenomenon and Instinct, seems skittishly averse to framing more than one actors’ face at a time, which means clumsy reaction shots and general inertia. Willis, whose limited range was touchingly deployed in The Sixth Sense, pulls his upper lip and delivers his lines with perhaps more fatuous smarm than necessary (though he and Breslin do share a cathartic weepfest late in the going that, as tearjerking ambushes go, rivals the mute moppet in The Patriot crying for “Papa!”).
The final scenes, involving Marc Shaiman’s shameless orchestral nudging (which, given his South Park triumph last year, evokes an evil genius grinning maniacally over a baby grand) and multiple Bruces assembling on an airstrip, is nonsensical in a way that’s insulting even for a mawkish time-travel film. Referencing La Jetée in the service of yuppie self-affirmation, The Kid‘s denouement resembles the nightmare that would have transpired had execs foisted a toupee and a happy ending on 12 Monkeys.
The original finale for David Drake’s 1992 The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me, the longest-running one-man stage production in New York theater history, was set in 1999 and celebrated a cure for AIDS (the eponymous smooch refers to Kramer’s 1985 watershed play The Normal Heart). The film adaptation bumps it up to 2018 and adds to its prognostications a Damon-Affleck remake of The Way We Were. If a few pockets of Drake’s seven-part, semiautobiographical narrative of growing up, coming out (with the aid of Swim Team Tim, Drake’s best sketch), acting up, and sleeping around—and of constant, terrible loss—seem a bit dated, his writing is so cogently personal and his performance so versatile that Larry Kramer could have debuted yesterday. Director Tim Kirkman clutters up the spare production with capricious use of slo-mo, camera shakes, chop-chop editing, and an almost comical number of angles; the live audience ends up sounding like a laugh track. But the camera’s pothering is only minorly distracting; once Drake reaches the candlelight vigil that acts as his penultimate set piece, he sustains an impossible balance between mordant wit and articulate bewilderment.