Star Kid

Austin Chronicle

DIRECTED BY: Manny Coto

REVIEWED: 01-20-98

Joseph Mazzello, an uncommonly good young actor (Jurassic Park, The River Wild), stars in this pre-adolescent male sci-fi fantasy about a seventh-grader who hops inside a big robotic Cybersuit and saves the planet from intergalactic aggressors called the Broodwarriors. Better than it has to be, but not nearly good enough to have much broad appeal (and I mean that in every sense), Star Kid combines the basics of kid melodrama (bullied, shy, new kid in school and fifth wheel at home) and video-game aesthetics. Mazzello plays Spencer, a kid whose mom died not too long ago and whose dad (Gilliland) is wrapped up in his job, whose sister (Levitch) refers to him as "the fungus" and whose arch-enemy is a schoolyard bully named Turbo (Simmrin). While forlornly looking out his bedroom window one night, Spencer spies a meteor crashing into a nearby junkyard. When he goes to explore, he discovers a seven-foot-tall robot prototype named Cybersuit (nicknamed "Cy") who's looking for a human host. Spencer jumps in and has great fun vanquishing his own bullies until it comes time to take on Cy's mortal enemies, the Broodwarriors. Cy is an appealing invention: part heartwarming creature with expressive, Indiglo-blue saucer eyes and part comic-book cyborg. Star Kid is most engaging in its presentation of Spencer's point of view. While Spencer is locked inside the Cybersuit, we witness conversations from Spencer's perspective: In other words, he speaks to Cy's inner skull. Also, good fun is had as Spencer tries to explain to Cy such concepts as jokes and slang (When Spencer utters "cool," Cy responds by turning down the temperature in the Cybersuit). The requisite kids' film bathroom humor is satisfied by having Spencer figure out how to urinate from within the suit. Despite the film's dramatic satisfactions, Star Kid is a big bust on the action front. Fight scenes are tediously staged and excessively long. Producer Jennie Lew Tugend (who produced all three Free Willy epics) seems to be making a bid to establish a new family film franchise with Star Kid. Who knows? It could turn out to be Mazzello's college fund.

2.5 stars

--Marjorie Baumgarten

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