“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.