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O. C. LIVE | KIDS ON FILM

Fans Can Relate as 'Bogus' Orphan Offers a Piece of His Mind

In "Bogus," a desperately lonely 7-year-old orphan named Albert copes with a reluctant caretaker by inventing a wise, compassionate and totally imaginary friend (Gerard Depardieu). (Rated PG)

September 12, 1996|LYNN SMITH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In some movies, it's an angel. In others, it's a ghost. Here, it's Bogus, a big and big-hearted Frenchman (Depardieu), one of the most kid-friendly advisors from another world ever invented.

Whether they admit to it or not, most kids can relate to having an invisible friend who, sprung from their own imagination, knows them inside out.

"All my friends wanted to see it," said 10-year-old Sarah Darling of Irvine, one of the few kids to admit she and her friends once had imaginary pals. "I really liked it. It was really sweet and heartwarming and stuff."

But the movie also has a dark side she and some others did not expect. Sarah said she came close to tears at the graveside funeral of Albert's mother, a loving Vegas showgirl killed in a car crash. Chris Lawson, 9, also of Irvine, was left with a strong visual memory of that crash.

"I thought [the movie] would be fun," Chris said. "It was fun, but also sad."

After his mother's death, the boy (Haley Joel Osment) is sent to live in Newark, N.J., with his godmother, Harriet Franklin (Whoopi Goldberg)--a lonely, single businesswoman with no time for children. Albert is flying alone to meet her when a face he is drawing comes to life and speaks to him. Just like the Vegas magician he wishes had adopted him, Bogus speaks English with a French accent.

When Harriet, a former foster child, employs her "Get over it, we don't always get choices in life" style of parenting, Bogus tries to help Albert understand. "She's nervous," he explains. "She needs a friend."

Meanwhile, Bogus attempts to get through to Harriet and remind her what children need to overcome their fears. Comfort first, then soup. As a model of empathy, Bogus provides an ideal parenting primer for workaholic parents too busy to notice, appreciate or play with the children in their home.

Sarah called Harriet the type of parent who "didn't have time to play and take time off with [Albert] and she should have because he's a kid. She was supposed to spend time with him, but she cared more about her work and didn't have any experience being a mother."

Younger children might get confused by the climax when Albert, tempted to retreat totally into his imagination, climbs a ladder in the clouds--in reality, the fire escape outside his room in Harriet's apartment. Sarah explained that "He was trying to get away from being there. He wanted to be in Las Vegas with his mom again."

In the end, she said, she was left with the message that imaginary friends are there to use when you need them but not, perhaps, all the time.

So was her imaginary friend with her at the screening? Don't bother asking skeptics such as her younger brother.

"He used to call me crazy," Sarah said. "And then after that, he thought his bear was alive."

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