After the simple looking little spacecraft lands in a automobile
wrecking yard, out steps a steel-gray, human-like creature with
aquamarine eyes and clad in a muscular suit. Spencer, the boy who
observes this, having seen his fill of science fiction flicks, figures
this thing must be a robot from outer space.
With the exception of Disney and a few others, most studios view
children's films as a way to ship a cheap and unimaginative product and
thereby make a quick profit. STAR KID stands out as that rare kids'
film that is undoubtedly low-budget but is also highly imaginative.
Remember, the robot? It wasn't one at all but rather a "Phase One
Assault Cyborsuit." The Cyborsuit is actually a prototype combat
enhancer developed by the Trelkins and jettisoned for latter retrieval
when they are under attack from the invading Broodwarriors.
The significant twist in the story is that Spencer gets to go
inside the Cyborsuit, and the Cyborsuit, nicknamed Cy, has plenty of
spunk. Cy keeps questioning the kid about everything including words
like "cool." Upon hearing that "command," Cy starts rapidly decreasing
the temperature in the Cyborsuit until Spencer screams for him to stop.
And when Cy speaks, we see Spencer's view, the backside of Cy's lips
As 12-year-old Spencer, Joseph Mazzello from the JURASSIC PARK
film series gives a remarkably good performance as a wimpy and
initially tongue-tied kid. Even when enclosed in his powerful new
Cyborsuit, he has his fears but he learns to overcome them.
"If you run away, things don't get better, whether it's bullies,
spiders, or girls," his science teacher advises him after he has
difficulties dealing with all three. Turbo (Joey Simmrin), the
school's chubby bully, beats up on him, spiders frighten him, and, most
embarrassing of all, he can't speak when in the presence of his
would-be girlfriend. With his Cyborsuit on, he learns some bravery
that transcends his time inside Cy.
Spencer lives with his Dad and his older teenage sister Stacey,
played by a smart-mouthed Ashlee Levitch, who looks like a younger
Sarah Jessica Parker. Stacey derides her brother, whom she barely
tolerates, by referring to him only as "the fungus."
This whole setup for Spencer's downtrodden and delightfully funny
life makes his acquisition of some superhuman powers a source of mirth
and empowerment. The beauty of Mazzello's performance is that you can
vicariously experience his fear and share in his enjoyment when he goes
after the bully to teach him a lesson he'll not soon forget. The
ensuing mayhem has some of the HOME ALONE antics, but the slapstick is
kept tightly under control by writer and director Manny Coto so that
one never feels embarrassed to be laughing.
The romantic angle is handled ever so delicately. When Cy wishes
to know if Spencer wants to mate with the object of his desire,
Michelle (Lauren Eckstrom), his eyes open wide in revulsion. "Mate
with her!" Spencer exclaims. "Pllllleeeeease, I just like her that's
The show has many funny twists. In one, Cy sees a man in a
Barney-like costume and begins firing at him, thinking he is an alien
life-form. Soon things get way out of hand, and Cy and Spencer have to
beat a hasty retreat.
As proof positive of the show's class, it actually contains
tasteful bathroom humor -- thought that was an oxymoron in a kids'
picture, didn't you? Cy cannot allow Spencer to leave the Cyborsuit,
and what happens when he needs to urinate becomes both sweet and
hilarious. The director's staging of this sequence is one of the
film's more charming moments. Oh, and eating is pretty funny too.
Spencer, whose idol is the comic book character "Midknight
Warrior," gets to face the challenge of a lifetime when a Broodwarrior
comes to capture the Cyborsuit. Spencer's valiant battle gives him a
chance to find his mettle. And the action sequences in the battle
manage to be quite respectable for a kids' show full of inventiveness
and lacking the usual repetition.
For a family movie mixing humor, fantasy, and action, STAR KID
delivers. Although it's probably not the sort of movie you'd want to
see without kids, with them you'll have a magical time with a
relatively straightforward but well developed story. You'll be rooting
for and laughing with Spencer and his buddy Cy all the way through.
Copyright © 1997 Steve Rhodes