Supplemental Viewing: Disney’s “The Kid”

“So, I’m forty, I’m not married, I don’t fly jets, and I don’t have a dog? I grow up to be a loser,” cries Rusty to Russ as he discovers that he does not grow up be all the he had hoped.

In Disney’s The Kid, the question is asked that if you could talk to your 8-year old self, what would you tell them? In the case of Russ Duritz, as played by Bruce Willis, it wasn’t what he told his younger self (Spencer Breslin) but what his former child-self told him. There is also a reprising role of a future Russ who putters around in a crop duster, assuring the younger Russ’ that eventually everything will work out.

Growing up, Rusty was your atypical dorky, chubby American boy. He was raised in Suburbia, America with the usual confusions and derangements that follow suit. Rusty eventually grew into an in-shape, air-tight, career driven 40 year old Russ who is consumed with his career as an image consultant. Russ had found himself in the business of giving advice, when in reality he was the one who needed it.

Alone on his 40th birthday, Russ takes himself out to a local diner. Rather than having an emotional breakdown upon reaching his forties, he is visited by his childhood self. They both find that they have similar ticks and scars, mannerisms and sayings. An awkward and loveable character, Rusty is an overweight schoolboy who is unmercifully teased while only dreaming of one day becoming a pilot. Russ is disgusted by his younger self, a painful remembrance of his past.

The set up with this plot is comparable to that of Charles Dickens’ 1843 time traveling novel “A Christmas Carol”. Scrooge is woken up in his sleep to travel through his Christmas’ past, present and future. The darkest experience for Scrooge was his journey to Christmas past, where he saw the misery of his dark childhood holiday’s spent in his boarding school’s dorms and the ending of an engagement with his fiancée. Rusty could be likened to the Ghost of Christmas Past in that they are both memories of the former self. Meanwhile, Russ is Rusty’s Ghost of Christmas Future. Rusty travels through time to see that his future self is nothing but a “loser”. Eventually, the two find happiness with the appearance of a future older, plane-flying version of themselves.

As a time traveling movie, it is insufficient. There are no clear indicators as to how Rusty, the child, and Russ, the old man, make their way into the present. The only connections to time travel is a “magical” diner that served as a vessel to carry Rusty to the future. It is also not explained how Russ as an adult does not remember time traveling as a child. It seems that Russ serves to guide Rusty through the tough times he is going to encounter in his adolescence while the older version offers no real advice.

All formalities aside, I loved this movie growing up. I have no idea why my 8 year old self was so enamored with this forgettable Disney movie. I had hoped that if I had grew up to be someone my childhood self would disapprove of, that my younger and older self would be able to travel through time to set me straight. The concept is impossible, but I was too imaginative to care of the technicalities of it. Possibly I still feel that way today. Maybe.

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More than Just a Good Night’s Rest

Imagine, two lovers are in their final embrace. They share one last, intimate kiss before being divided by two imperial guards. With a look of heartache and hopelessness, she looks upon her lover and cries, “I love you,” to which he coolly responds, “I know”. He is then lowered into a chamber that flash-freezes him into a block of carbonite, placing him in a state of permanent hibernation. This scene is from the fifth episode of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, where Hans Solo is frozen in time by Darth Vader.

In Washington Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle”, the protagonist and title’s name sake is in a sense frozen in time, although inexplicably as to how. Winkle one day wanders into one of the uppermost points of the Catskills. He finds himself drinking too much from a keg among strange, little men, a situation most of us have probably found ourselves in. Two decades later, Winkle wakes up to a rusted gun and an incoherence to his situation. In The Return of the Jedi, Solo has a similar experience when he regains consciousness from being frozen. He suffers from what is  known as “hibernation sickness“, where one of the side effects includes confusion.

                                                    “Where am I?”- Hans Solo

In comparing both Lucas’ and Irving’s concept of time travel, there are great distinctions. In Star Wars, there are technically two instances of time travel with both the use of the hyperdrive and carbon freezing. With carbon freezing, the subject being placed in suspended animation is done so with the use of solidified gases in a form of carbon. Those being frozen can stay in this form until released, without any noticeable signs of age. In “Rip Van Winkle”, it is never explicitly describes as to how Winkle managed to “sleep” through twenty years of his life. He also awakes to a nearly foot long beard and the distinct appearance of an elderly man.

Though there are mass contrasts as to how Hans Solo and Rip Van Winkle travel through time, the key idea of how they manage it remains the same. Both our protagonists find themselves incapacitated between a length of time and being transported into the future, where they are confounded and unaware. One could argue that Winkle remained in a form of hibernation, just as Solo, during his passage through time. In the words of Biggie Smalls, “It was all a dream.”