Charmless and exceptionally tasteless pre-teen time-filler, “Kids World” is the sort of movie that seems conceived more out of tax-credit incentives than from any real desire to engage children’s imaginations. Pic is strictly for those families who find themselves sold-out of “Harry Potter” at the local multiplex and, even then, why not go home and read a book? The only notable element here is that pic has managed to get into theaters at all, finally opening on a few dozen screens in select cities this past Friday after missing a half-dozen previously scheduled dates. Bigscreen appearance will be fleeting before pic retreats to the dusty kids’ shelves at the local videostore.
Set in Oregon but, very conspicuously (largely due to the accents of most of the principal cast) shot in and around Auckland, New Zealand, pic opens on a trio of adolescent friends — Ryan (Blake Foster), Stu (Anton Tennet) and Twinkie (Michael Purvis) — as they are pursued by a maniacal bully, Detloff (Todd Emerson). Hiding from Detloff in the proverbial Indian Burial Ground, the kids discover an ancient “wishing glass” that can be used to grant the bearer whatever he desires. Late that night, Ryan wishes that all the adults and teenagers of the world would disappear.
Ryan’s primary motivations for this wish seem to be as follows: His parents make him eat his greens; they also make him wear his bicycle helmet; and his older brother teases him whenever he has the chance. Oh, the horror! It’s a slack setup, in which writer Michael Lach and director Dale G. Bradley recycle decades-old cliches about why kids don’t get along with their parents.
Then, once Ryan’s wish comes true, further moth-eaten ideas — this time, about what kids would do if they were suddenly turned loose on a parentless world — are hauled out of the wardrobe. Specifically, kids would consume massive amounts of junk food, drive their parents’ cars and trash their own homes, without taking a moment’s pause to contemplate how they can go on living an a world without adults.
That fear sets in only very late, after an accident involving Ryan’s baby sister (Olivia Tennet), at which point Ryan must face off against Detloff for possession of the wishing glass. By this point, Detloff has become a rogue militarist, having used the glass’ powers to give himself heavy artillery and an entire army of dronelike followers, all dressed to resemble Nazi youth.
There are long scenes of Detloff, in a tank, chasing Ryan and company around their “Oregon” suburb, blasting rounds of ammunition into conveniently unoccupied buildings. The point, amid all this unnecessary destruction, is that Detloff doesn’t care if the adults ever return, because his parents are always away on business anyway. And so, a message of “Spend more time with your kids” takes its heavy-handed place alongside the movie’s equally pedantic warnings of “Be careful what you wish for” and “Always eat your greens.”
Christopher Lloyd is in this movie, too, playing Leo, the mentally handicapped man next door, who doesn’t disappear with the rest of the adults because, mentally, he’s still a child. Maybe Lloyd wanted to take a trip Down Under, or maybe he owed somebody a favor, because there’s little other plausible explanation for the presence of this fine actor in this thankless role, which requires little of him, except to sit on a porch, playing a didgeridoo (another good hint that we’re not really in Oregon) until, in a few moments of convenient lucidity, he helps to save the day.
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