A family film that at best feels a lot like a videogame, “Star Kid” has entertaining special effects and cartoonishly gory battle scenes that should strike a responsive chord with pre adolescent boys. But apart from that demographic, pic is unlikely to find much of an audience; its plot is thin, characters stock and action sequences frequently formulaic.
The story centers on skinny, introverted seventh-grader Spencer Griffith (Joseph Mazzello of “Jurassic Park”), who spends recess trying to escape Turbo, the class bully (Joey Simmrin), and his afternoons poring over comic books. Though his kindly teacher (Corinne Bohrer) encourages him to face his fears, Spencer can no more summon the courage to talk to a pretty girl he admires than he can steel himself to fight the bully.
But all of that changes one night when Spencer spots a meteor crashing into the local junkyard. Suddenly intrepid, he ventures into the area to find Cyborsuit, an amiable robot searching for a biotic host or organic life form to inhabit its android shell. Somewhat unwittingly, Spencer volunteers, and in a scene creepy enough to make audience claustrophobes recoil, he climbs into the tight fitting Cyborsuit. Once inside Cy — sort of an unwieldy cross between the Batsuit and C 3PO — Spencer finds he’s endowed with superpowers. That, however, proves a mixed blessing. Cy offers turbo power and a computer brain, but he is about as delicate as a clown on roller-skates. Worse, Spencer finds he may have the strength of 10 men, but performing simple human tasks (eating and eliminating waste) are no easy proposition.
Once he’s used the robot’s powers for his own purposes — like taking a few swipes at Turbo — Spencer must help Cy fight his own enemy, a giant, slimy arachnid creature known as a Broodwarrior, who has apparently arrived from outer space. Having finally earned his respect, Spencer even enlists Turbo’s help, insisting, without irony, that “the future of mankind is at stake.”
Though the climactic battle seems overlong and not particularly inspired, kids may well enjoy the above average visual effects. In a reminder of a nearly bygone era, effects have been achieved for the most part through animatronics and elaborate makeup rather than digitally.
Still, there’s no escaping the film’s debt to Industrial Light & Magic: A number of its alien creatures look and snort like refugees from the cantina in “Star Wars.” And “Star Kid” imparts a similar message: Use your inner strength to conquer fears and face responsibility. But the message is buried so far under the rubble of action sequences it’s unlikely to resonate much with younger viewers.