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"True Lies" fantasy fuels "The Kid & I"

Deftly directed by Penelope Spheeris, the enjoyable family film is written by and stars Tom Arnold.

December 02, 2005|Kevin Thomas | Times Staff Writer

"The Kid & I" stars Tom Arnold as an actor so failed that he's planning his suicide when he gets a job offer from his agent (Henry Winkler), who heretofore has refused all his calls for at least two years. It seems zillionaire Davis Roman (Joe Mantegna) wants Arnold's Bill Williams to write and costar in a movie.

Williams is best-known for what is actually Arnold's own career high, supporting Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis in "True Lies," which happens to be Roman's son Aaron's (Eric Gores) favorite movie. Aaron has a relatively mild form of cerebral palsy, and it is his dream to star in his own version of "True Lies" with Williams as his sidekick. Because expense is no object, Roman thinks the film, not intended for commercial release, will be a great 18th birthday present for his son.

This premise is such a stretch that it's easy to believe Arnold, who wrote the script, and director Penelope Spheeris when they say it is "sorta" based on a true story. In any event, it is difficult to imagine anyone but Spheeris pulling off this movie, undercutting all mawkishness, bringing to it nuance and shading, not to mention wit. The result is an enjoyable family movie.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday December 03, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 25 words Type of Material: Correction
"The Kid & I" -- A review of the movie "The Kid & I" in Friday's Calendar section misidentified actor Richard Edson as Robert Edson.

The film-within-the-movie, called "Two Spies," spoofs "True Lies" and allows Aaron, who is fit, intrepid and good-natured, to be a hero when he is hired by a gruff tycoon (Charles Napier, no less) to rescue his granddaughter's beloved Shih Tzu. To be sure, the production hits an unexpected snag, without which there would be no "Kid & I."

What sets "The Kid & I" apart from most Hollywood comedies is its restraint, on the part of Arnold, both as writer and actor, as well as Spheeris. Comedy actually grows out of character and situation. Arnold's Williams is a lonely, paunchy, middle-aged actor on the skids, and though "Two Spies" may just get him another gig, it's pretty clear it's not going to win him back his ex-wife (Linda Hamilton), who is producing "Two Spies." And when Roman's ex-wife Bonnie (Brenda Strong), who is overly protective of Aaron, worries that her son is falling in love with his leading lady (Arielle Kebbel) and will be hurt as a result, Williams points out that heartbreak is something everyone experiences and that Aaron should not be so shielded from life, in which he so eagerly wants to participate.

Throughout her career Spheeris has been concerned with the lives of young people, and the film benefits from her rapport with Gores, a trained actor who does have cerebral palsy.

A key setting is Roman's palazzo, one of the most extravagant and outsized of nouveau riche Westside -- or thereabouts -- estates. His taste in architecture and decor aside, Roman is a loving and engaged father, with a stunning, much younger second wife (Shannon Elizabeth) who is no mere trophy. Robert Edson is Williams' amusing reformed deadbeat assistant.

In "Wayne's World" and beyond, Spheeris has time and again revealed her deft comic touch, and now she deserves the chance to return to the darker, stronger material of her earlier films "The Boys Next Door" and "Dudes."


'The Kid & I'

MPAA rating: PG-13 for some language, crude humor and drug references

Times guidelines: Suitable family fare

A Slow Hand release of a Wheels Up Films release. Director Penelope Spheeris. Producers Penelope Spheeris, Tom Arnold, Brad Wyman. Screenplay by Tom Arnold. Cinematographer Robert Seaman. Editors Jan Northrop, John Wesley Whitton. Music Steve Mccroskey. Costumes Lynette Meyer. Production designer Linda Spheeris. Art director Nanci Roberts. Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes.

In general release.

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