Reality TV shows like Extreme Makeover and Three Wishes trade in a cheap variety of do-gooder treacle, purporting to selflessly lend a helping hand to those in need as they exploit their hard-luck subjects’ tragic circumstances for ratings gold. This “entertainment of good intentions” diffuses any cynical criticism of its calculated methods by offering up a portrait of unassailable charity, a tack also taken by The Kid & I, a film written by Tom Arnold in an altruistic effort to provide his real-life cerebral palsy-afflicted teenage neighbor Eric Gores with a custom-made starring vehicle. Directed with boob-tube blandness by Penelope Spheeris, this self-reflexive “based on a sorta true story” follows the misadventures of Bill Williams (Arnold), a has-been movie star 12 years removed from his biggest success (in True Lies) who, on the brink of committing suicide, has his death delayed by an out-of-the-blue movie deal. Convinced it’s his second shot at stardom, Bill soon has his hopes dashed when he discovers that the project is being funded by a wealthy businessman (Joe Mantegna) who wants to help his disabled son Aaron (Gores), a rabid True Lies fan, star in an action-comedy (to be screened at his 18th birthday party) with his favorite actor Bill. That Bill will learn heartfelt life lessons from “A-Dog” (as Aaron prefers to be called) is inevitable from the moment the depressed schmo lays disappointed eyes on the irrepressibly energetic teen. Yet what’s objectionable isn’t the pervasive afterschool-special vibe (or lifeless cameos involving, among others, Shaq and Eric Dickerson) but rather the film’s constant attempts to gloss over its crude construction, tepid Hollywood satire, and self-referential mockery of Arnold’s career with shameless reminders that the amateurish narrative is paralleling Arnold’s actual generosity toward Eric. Beset by self-pity, Bill has his spirits lifted when Aaron’s stepmother (Shannon Elizabeth) shows him (genuine non-fiction) footage of the boy as a performance-crazy young kid, simply one of many fallback moves designed to stimulate the audience’s tear ducts by appealing to this comedically hokey, dramatically cloying film’s underlying reality. Gores may be a remarkable kid, but The Kid & I—not unlike Bill and Aaron’s cheesy espionage thriller Two Spies—is the type of well-intentioned home movie-ish endeavor that should only be viewed by its cast’s friends and family.
- Wheels Up Films
- 93 min
- Penelope Spheeris
- Tom Arnold
- Tom Arnold, Eric Gores, Richard Edson, Joe Mantegna, Henry Winkler, Shannon Elizabeth, Linda Hamilton, Arielle Kebbel
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