May 29, 2014

Review: Star Kid (1997)

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is pure cinematic bliss. With good effects, a heavy-hitting story and a score that would make any movie at least somewhat worthwhile, it's no surprise that other people would want to capitalize. Star Kid came out 15 years later after E.T. but it's pretty obvious that the same formula is being used here.

Whiny kid? Check. Life form from another planet that becomes whiny kid's friend? Check. Single parent? Check. The only addition in Star Kid is the threat of an alien invasion. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but there's no flattery here. It's just an easy rip-off pure and simple.


Genre: adventure, sci-fi, family
Directed by: Manny Coto
Produced by: Jennie Lew Tugend, Jonathon Komack Martin, Cami Winikoff, etc.
Written by: Manny Coto
Music by: Nicholas Pike
Running time: 101 minutes
Production company: Manny Coto Productions, Trimark Pictures
Distributed by: Ascot Video, Senator Film, Imperial Entertainment, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $12,000,000
Box office: $7,029,025 (North America)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Joseph Mazzello, Richard Gilliland, Corinne Bohrer, Alex Daniels, Arthur Burghardt, Joey Simmrin, Brian Simpson, Ashlee Levitch, Jack McGee, Danny Masterson, Lauren Eckstrom, Christine Weatherup, Yumi Adachi



Spencer Griffith (Joseph Mazzello) is a comic book loving 12 year-old boy who gets bullied by a bulky ruffian by the name of Manfred Bruntley (Joey Simmrin) and he's too chicken to make a move on his crush Michelle (Lauren Eckstrom). His mom tragically died two years ago and his dad doesn't have any time to really spend time with him because of his job. Things are tough, but one night a weird meteorite turns out to be an alien spacecraft that holds an alien. Well, more specifically it's an intelligent battle suit that Spencer wears and can control. He learns of an impending alien invasion and he has to play the hero and stop it. 


It has to be said that Star Kid is really only for kids. Just because it's for kids though, that doesn't excuse it from having a lackluster, copycat storyline as well as really immature humour. Don't kids deserve better than dumb toilet/gross out humour? Why should there be so many jokes that rely on the clumsiness of Spencer inside the cybersuit? These incidents either result in him falling down or causing accidental destruction. This is lazy stuff and kids deserve better. I'm not saying it should try to be like E.T. because pulling that off is close to impossible but there should be more effort put in to making an intelligent kid movie instead of relying on easy humour. Sure, some kids will probably like it, but will they still like it when they've grown up a bit? I doubt it. .

The message that Star Kid tries to get across is all the same something that's worthwhile. Spencer is scared of facing his bully and he's scared of talking to Michelle like so many young boys would be. His teacher tries to coach him and tell him that he shouldn't run away from his fears which is good advice. So what happens? Spencer gets the cybersuit and all his problems are solved. He can torture his bully and he can stalk his would-be girlfriend. When it comes to actually facing those fears properly, the scenes are pretty weak. 

How are the effects? Some of the designs are kind of interesting I guess, especially for the baddies. However there's a heavy reliance on shadows and darkness to hide any unconvincing features. It's $12 million budget shows but there's worse out there all the same.

I have to call out the score though for being totally ineffective when it really mattered. The score is so lifeless during the final confrontation and it's lackluster everywhere else. Forget about trying to match the perfection that is John Williams' score from E.T. but a little more effort would have been appreciated. Maybe I'm being unfair in always comparing Star Kid to E.T., but it's asking for it.

Star Kid I'm sure was part of some kid's childhood. Funnily enough this movie is rated PG and I'm sure it's because of a single scene where there is a bit of blood that kind of surprised me given who the audience is supposed to be. Star Kid is wiped pretty clean of any real violence or any slightly scary imagery except for that one inexplicable one second shot of some blood. Very bizarre, but kids probably say it anyway. I can only hope that they've also seen E.T. and know what a real kid + alien friendship movie is all about. 



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