20 January 2014 | StevePulaski
"As inoffensive and as genial as it is daming"
The Kid & I is as inoffensive and as genial as it is damning, and as heartfelt as it is uneven, with its premise that manages to go in about six different directions and only halfway accomplishes each. However, it's hard and almost unfair to bash a film that so sentimentally wears its heart on its sleeve as this one does. It's a good-natured effort from Tom Arnold, whose good-naturedness has seemingly got him to be nothing but the butt of everyone's jokes for the past decade.
At least in The Kid & I, he plays a character we don't mind being around. He plays Bill Williams, a hasbeen actor who is just about to execute plans to kill himself. He already has his gravestone personalized and made out and he's just about ready to down a whole container of pills and wash it down with a fifth of vodka. He has already sent out letters to people like his ex-wife detailing his suicide, and in efforts to give all his clothes to someone who would use them better he gives them to a bum who simultaneously follows him inside and foils his suicide plan.
Out of options and frustrated, Bill is contacted by his agent (an out-of-place Henry Winkler) who informs him that a millionaire is seeking Bill's expertise in order to create a film similar to his only hit True Lies with Arnold Schwarzenegger for his teenage son. It just so happens that the millionaire's teenage son has cerebral palsy and his favorite film is True Lies. The boy's name is Aaron Roman (Eric Gores), and his dreams are in line with many other seventeen-year-old's - he wants to engage in high-octane fights, street races, and get the girl by the end of it all.
So Bill makes a hearty attempt at making the boy's dream come true, all while giving his own particular life a purpose. Arnold plays a likable character here, while Gores, who really suffers from cerebral palsy, creates a charming character, who very well could be himself in real life. Arnold and Gores achieve a warm tenderness in some sequences, particularly one where they're discussing their characters' love interests for the film. Aaron suggests Arielle Kebbel, a Maxim model, for his love interest, while suggesting Rosie O'Donnell for Bill's. Here's a scene where a Roseanne Barr joke would've worked perfectly.
As the film goes on it bares this indescribable awkwardness that needs to be addressed. For some reason, the entire film seems to have a lot of dead-air and instances where echos can audibly be heard either from microphones that had no particular windscreen or no shield from excess noise. The entire setup creates a stunning artificiality, that of a soap opera or just a weirdly-orchestrated public access TV special. Then there's the barrage of celebrity cameos, including Shaquille O'Neal, Bill Goldberg, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger that only add to the film's awkward senses.
Still, The Kid & I is a difficult film to criticize given its cheery nature and good-hearted characters. The film was directed by Penelope Spheeris, who apparently likes to be a tad self-referential in her projects by having a character state they'll get Penelope Spheeris to direct their little film because she comes cheap. Spheeris, who manned the ship with films such as Black Sheep, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Wayne's World, gives us a pleasantly soft and welcoming approach to the material, while Arnold, serving as the writer and co-producer, doesn't hesitate to venture into a grimmer territory with the story of a Hollywood talent that never quite gained traction after his fifteen minutes of fame.
As stated, The Kid & I is difficult to dislike because of the fact it's so openly warm and is okay on being sentimental and an emotional work. Yet, the film is very uneven, mainly due to Arnold's wise if tricky inclusion of darker elements, the distracting celebrity cameos, the goofball humor, the shameless moralizing, and the inanity that so many odds and ends are coming together. Spheeris and Arnold, however, ground the film into reality to a certain degree, giving you the idea that if a medium-budget action movie production were being thrown together for the benefit of a disabled teenager this is kind of what it would look like. For giving its strange concept a pragmatic life, the picture deserves credit, even though it's reward at the end of the day is a tad questionable.
Starring: Tom Arnold, Eric Gores, Linda Hamilton, Henry Winkler, Richard Edson, Brenda Strong, Arielle Kebbel, Shannon Elizabeth, Joe Mantegna, Shaquille O'Neal, Bill Goldberg, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Directed by: Penelope Spheeris.