Thursday, January 23, 2014

Just You and Me, Kid (1979)

          If you can overlook a premise that stretches credibility far past the breaking point, Just You and Me, Kid is a pleasant bit of fluff starring a charming veteran and a spunky newcomer. Nothing in the movie is remotely surprising, but star power keeps nearly every scene watchable. Eightysomething comedy legend George Burns, who was in the midst of one of Hollywood’s unlikeliest comebacks when he made this picture, stars as Bill Grant, a former vaudevillian now living alone in a Los Angeles mansion. Brooke Shields, the precocious teen model whose sexualized image in widely seen advertisements led to a wobbly acting career, costars as Kate, a street kid on the run from a thug named Demesta (William Russ). After fleeing Demesta’s place without clothes (don’t ask), Kate hides in the trunk of Bill’s vintage car and then threatens to accuse him of molesting her unless he lets her hide in his house.
          Absurd and salacious as this situation sounds, Just You and Me, Kid actually gets off to a decent start by focusing on vignettes of Bill’s eccentric daily life. He uses automated music recordings instead of alarm clocks, keeps traffic cones in his car so he can scam great parking places, peppers every conversation with tart one-liners, and so on. Burns floats through Just You and Me, Kid on a cloud of perpetual calm and perfect timing. Shields, meanwhile, adds spice to Burns’ salt by delivering all of her lines with more attitude than skill; she manages to come across as appealing even though much of the film’s dialogue relates to implications that older men are desperate to sleep with her. While it’s true that the storyline of Just You and Me, Kid goes exactly where you might expect—Bill and Kate discover they’re good for each other, because Bill needs someone to love and Kate needs a caretaker—director/co-writer Leonard Stern keeps things moving along briskly, and he organizes nearly every scene as a showcase for Burns’ amiably dry humor.
          That said, subplots involving Bill’s anxious daughter (Lorraine Gary) and Bill’s institutionalized best friend (Burl Ives) are woefully underdeveloped, and the whole business with Demesta is merely a half-assed plot contrivance. Plus, of course, placing a bachelor and a young girl in the same house for much of the picture is unavoidably suggestive, no matter how many times the filmmakers use jokes to keep viewers minds out of the gutter. Just You and Me, Kid is far from the best of Burns’ comeback-era vehicles, but considering how bad his pictures got just a few years later—here’s looking at you, Oh, God! You Devil (1984)—this movie ends up seeming relatively harmless.

Just You and Me, Kid: FUNKY

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