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"STAR KID"
(1998) (Joseph Mazzello, Joey Simmrin) (PG)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
None Minor Mild *Moderate Moderate
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Mild Mild Moderate None Mild
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Minor Minor Mild Mild Moderate


QUICK TAKE:
Adventure/Children's: A twelve-year-old boy tries to help a robotic alien in his battle against an intergalactic invader.
PLOT:
Spencer Griffith (JOSEPH MAZZELLO) is a twelve-year-old whose life couldn't get any worse. His mother died two years ago, his dad, Roland (RICHARD GILLILAND), has a new job and little time for his kids, and his older sister Stacey (ASHLEE LEVITCH) can't stand him. To top it off, he's always picked on by Turbo (JOEY SIMMRIN), the school bully, and always gets tongue tied when he tries to talk to Michelle (LAUREN ECKSTROM), the girl of his dreams.

Things change, however, when Spencer sees what he thinks is a meteorite crash into an old auto junkyard. Instead, he finds that it's an intelligent combat enhanced "cybersuit" -- an alien designed, armor coated suit to be worn into battle. Needing a biological being inside the suit to control its actions, Cy, as Spencer calls it, tells him that it was made by a race of beings known as the Trelkins. It seems they're trying to defend the universe from an attacking hoard of intergalactic beings known as the Broodwarriors, and Cy is their latest effort at enforcing peace.

As Spencer gets inside the suit (where he can still interact with the robot) and begins teaching Cy about human behavior, little does he know that a Broodwarrior has arrived on Earth and is prepared to do anything to defeat Cy and take the cybersuit back to his home planet. From that point on, Spencer helps Cy battle the Broodwarrior, while Cy teaches him how to be brave and confidant in his life.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
Boys, from say, six to the early teens will be the target audience wanting to see this film, although girls who are enamored with Mazzello (the boy from "Jurassic Park") might just want to see it as well.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: PG
For fantasy combat violence and language.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • JOSEPH MAZZELLO plays a typical kid who's experiencing the awkward pangs of early adolescence and who finally reacts to a bully's taunting by using violence himself.
  • JOEY SIMMRIN plays a stereotypical bully who taunts and physically abuses those smaller or younger than him.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
    If you're a film maker and want to quickly establish a sympathetic character, one of the better techniques is to make him/her the "victim" of a bully's actions. Since nearly everyone in their life -- at one point or another -- has been picked on physically, intellectually, or even emotionally, it's easy to feel for the kid who's getting the similar treatment.

    That holds true for "Star Kid," the latest entry in a long line of films where the new kid in town must deal with the school bully while trying to win over the heart of the pretty girl. Written and directed by Manny Coto (whose last effort was the 1992 low budget horror flick, "Dr. Giggles"), this movie follows the standard set-up (such as in "My Bodyguard," "The Karate Kid" movies and countless other films) where the picked on kid is protected by a stranger who sometimes also teaches him how to deal with everyday problems. Of course this film adds a new type of bully to the story, and it comes in the form of an ugly space monster that the kid must also fight.

    Yes, suspension of disbelief is greatly needed for this story to work and it's surprisingly easy to come by. Part of that can be attributed to fourteen-year-old Mazzello who's best known as the little boy in "Jurrasic Park" (1993). While he does a decent job in the role of the small, picked on kid who eventually manages to take care of the bully, the fact that we've already seen him surrounded by hordes of dinosaurs helps in accepting the fantasy situation in which we find him in this film.

    Younger kids, who obviously will identify with Spencer's plight, will love this movie where he not only finally beats up the bully, but also kicks some serious alien butt (a recent favorite trend after "Independence Day" and "Men In Black"). The special effects are fun (and technically quite good looking considering what's initially expected of them), as are the many scenes where Spencer awkwardly tries to guide the out of control robot. Kids will giggle when Spencer has Cy walk toward Turbo in a Frankenstein monster-like way and answer, "Your brains," to the frightened bully's question about what he wants. Likewise, they'll laugh when Cy accidentally destroys much of the kitchen after literally getting his head stuck in the fridge and then blindly spinning about.

    By adding the whole space alien combat material, the film not only gives Spencer a way to take care of the bully, but it also allows the film to segue into a completely different story. Of course that's not a bad thing since the bully genre has nearly been overdone, and the whimsy in which the space alien element is presented makes the whole concept easy to swallow. Most of the fun comes from Spencer having to teach Cy about his Earth-based colloquial terms. When the boy tells the robot they have to hit the road, Cy confusedly asks, "We have to strike the pavement?" And when he mentions being a chicken or talks about "having a cow," Cy immediately gets confused as his visual display shows the real animals that logically (to him) don't connect to the boy's references.

    Much of the material, though, is surprisingly lifted straight from the "Terminator" movies. If you remember the sequel, Edward Furlong teaches Schwarzenegger's robot all about human phrases and emotions, and even has a scene where the terminator "gives him five" (slapping palms) that's directly duplicated in this film, including the boy briefly wincing in pain from the slap. Also taken straight from those movies is the robot's visual display (with all sorts of readouts on the screen -- including a body outline scene where the robot tries to match up an image with real people he sees) and the literally crushing finale where the "villain" is killed.

    Of course the audience for whom this movie's aimed will have little knowledge of those James Cameron films, but for adults it's a pretty obvious rip-off. Even so, parents might find some moments that are fun (the robot removes all unnecessary ingredients from a hamburger for Spencer to eat -- essentially rendering it tasteless) to touching (when the boy gets to see a vivid memory of his deceased mother).

    Mazzello is perfectly cast in the role as the new kid on the block, and it's nice that the film makers didn't dwell too much on the loss of his mother (and thus avoided making the film upsetting to kids, or at minimum, a "downer"). Expertly capturing the awkward early pangs of adolescence and fear of the bully, Mazzello is engaging to watch and quickly captures our sympathy regarding his plight. The rest of the performers are adequate, but not nearly developed enough to make them really interesting. Simmrin is quite stereotypical as the bully, and it's surprising that Lauren Eckstrom's character (the would-be girlfriend) isn't more developed.

    Of course the story's not really about his pursuit of her as a girlfriend, but since it's introduced, it would have been nice to see it played out to a greater extent. Beyond that, there's also the stereotypically perturbed older sister, the single dad who has no time for his kids, and the caring -- and of course -- pretty school teacher who befriends the main character.

    That said, the film still has a certain charm about it and is certainly easy to watch. Despite the stereotypical characters and the material lifted from the other movies, it all gels together into a pleasant little film that should entertain kids and keep their parents from getting too bored (although the ending fight sequence goes on for a bit too long). Considering its target audience, we found it to be mildly entertaining but entirely forgettable, and thus give "Star Kid" a 4 out of 10.

    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    While most older kids won't have any problems with this film, younger children may find some of the scenes scary or unsettling. The appearance of the Broodwarrior is quite monstrous (to little kids), and the many scenes where it attacks or comes after the characters and/or Cy may be a bit too suspenseful for some of them. Beyond that, there a few instances of profanity and other words or phrases you might not want younger kids hearing. Since many kids will probably want to see this picture, we suggest that you look through the content to determine if it's appropriate for them.


    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • None.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • The Broodwarrior often pulls gooey creatures from its body that then turn into pieces of equipment or flying, spider-like creatures.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Obviously, the Broodwarriors' military aggression show that they have both.
  • Turbo, being the school bully, has both.
  • Stacey doesn't particularly like Spencer (at least on the surface) and calls him all sorts of disparaging names.
  • Stacey's boyfriend convinces her to leave the house (although she tells him she can't because she's watching Spencer). When they return and find part of it in ruins and her dad drives up, the boyfriend quickly leaves.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • Depending on the age and maturity level of your child, the following may or may not affect them.
  • An opening battle scene at night where laser blasts injure (and presumably kill) some aliens might be unsettling to the youngest of viewers.
  • Younger kids may be nervous as Spencer walks through a junkyard at night (with strange shadows and a little fog), looking for the meteorite.
  • Once Spencer climbs inside the cybersuit and it seals him inside, he panics and yells and screams to get out. Although this is a relatively short moment, younger kids may be scared.
  • Cy must race across a county fair to catch a falling car from an amusement park ride before it hits the ground.
  • The appearance of the Broodwarrior (a somewhat gooey, monstrous and menacing-looking creature) may be scary or unsettling to younger viewers.
  • The youngest of kids may be scared that more Broodwarriors are on their way to Earth (mentioned as a possibility in the movie).
  • The entire (and rather long) sequence near the end where Spencer and Turbo must distract and then flee from the Broodwarrior might be suspenseful to younger kids. This includes a scene where Spencer is trapped by the creature and must then scramble out of a van that's being crushed in a junkyard compactor -- while the creature grabs his foot as he tries to get out.
  • Likewise, Cy's battle with the Broodwarrior (where it appears to have "killed" him) might be unsettling for some kids.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Space Weapons: Used by the Broodwarriors to fire upon the Trelkins in an early scene (injuring and presumably killing some of them).
  • Laser weapons: Fired from Cy's arms at various times.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "Turd," "Butt wipe," "Geez," "Gnarly fart," "Scab juice," "Fungus," "Idiot," and "Lunatic."
  • Turbo picks on Spencer and spits inside his comic book.
  • Spencer (inside of Cy) takes food from a drive-through window and leaves an I.O.U. note instead of money.
  • Turbo (not old enough to have a license) takes his dad's car and he and Spencer drive it to find and help Cy. In doing so, he also causes a police car that's chasing them to crash into an above ground pool.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • A piece of metal pops out and shakes near Spencer's head.
  • Spencer cautiously touches the cybersuit and a blast of steam suddenly comes out of it.
  • Stacey's boyfriend suddenly shows up at her window, startling her (and perhaps younger kids in the audience).
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • There's a moderate amount of suspenseful music in several scenes.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • 1 hell, 1 damn, 1 crap, 1 incomplete "What the..." and 4 uses of "Oh my God" and 2 uses of "Oh God" as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • Not knowing why Spencer is having him "track down" Michelle, Cy comments on that being a "mating ritual" (which Spencer quickly denies).
  • SMOKING
  • Turbo's dad has an unlit cigar in his mouth.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • There are a few brief moments when Spencer talks about missing his mom (who died two years ago from an undisclosed illness), and he gets to see her in a visually displayed memory.
  • Spencer's dad doesn't have much time to spend with him, and his sister (on the surface) can't stand to be around her brother.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • Confronting your fears. Spencer's teacher tells him, "If you run away from the things you're scared of, it doesn' t get any better. The fear doesn't go away. As a matter of fact, it just gets worse."
  • The youngest of kids may be scared that more Broodwarriors are on their way to Earth (mentioned as a possibility in the movie).
  • VIOLENCE
  • An opening scene shows a laser battle between the Broodwarriors and the Trelkins where many of the latter are shot with laser weapons (they're injured and some are presumably killed in a "Star Wars"- like, non-graphic fashion). We also see a spaceship crash into the ground and explode.
  • Turbo pushes Spencer backwards on the playground and bounces a ball on his head. He's stopped, however, before punching him.
  • Later, Turbo punches Spencer in the face, who in turn takes a dessert and smashes it in the bully's face.
  • Cy gets confused at a county fair and begins firing laser blasts at costumed characters and at other people (no one is hurt).
  • After getting stuck in a refrigerator, Cy accidentally crashes and thrashes his way through the kitchen and other parts of the house, destroying much of it.
  • The Broodwarrior and Cy fight inside a house and a great deal of it gets trashed as they hit and knock each other around and through the house.
  • After Turbo confronts him, Spencer knocks him to the ground and then punches him in the face when he gets up.
  • Cy and the Broodwarrior fight again with more punches and bodies thrown about a junkyard. Eventually the creature strikes and partially tears open Cy's protective armor.
  • Though not entirely seen, a junkyard car compactor crushes the Broodwarrior, killing it.



  • Reviewed January 10, 1998

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