All Grown Up On The Inside

Image consultant Russ Duritz (Bruce Willis) is rich, mean, selfish and incapable of commitment. On the brink of 40, he has a mysterious run-in with, you should pardon the expression, his "inner child." Except that pudgy 8-year-old Rusty (Spencer Breslin) is no metaphor, but a flesh-and-blood kid who is downright appalled by the man he's become--a guy with a twitch who lives without a dog or a woman and has a job teaching people to pretend to be what they're not. The grown-up is no more delighted to meet his former self--a pathetic dweeb who's the butt of schoolyard bullies. Both Russes, in each other's eyes, are losers.

One doesn't need to be much more than 8 to predict where "Disney's The Kid" is headed. The presence of Disney in the title ensures that eye-misting life lessons will be learned. But if the endpoint is a homiletic given, the journey itself is more charming, and less sentimental, than you might suspect. Screenwriter Audrey Wells ("The Truth About Cats and Dogs," "Guinevere") fleshes out this potentially gloppy premise with real flashes of wit and well-earned warmth, and director Jon Turteltaub ("While You Were Sleeping") mostly keeps a close rein on the whimsy.

Willis proves again his deft comic touch --he knows better than most the adage that acting is reacting. Breslin is mulishly funny, his abrasiveness matching up nicely with the boorishness his older self has cultivated. British actress Emily Mortimer plays the woman Russ doesn't want to fall for. It's a generic part, but she gives it charm. The icing on the cake is Lily Tomlin as Russ's much-abused assistant: wry doesn't get any wryer. This is one both your inner child and your child can enjoy. D.A.