Reviewed by Dan Lybarger
August 1, 1996
Deciding whether you like director Francis Ford Coppola’s new movie Jack will depend on the following factors:
If all three of these indicators are high, you’ll adore this flick. Otherwise, you may find it to be a silly annoying mess.
In this outing Williams plays Jack Powell, a 10-year-old with a disorder that causes him to age four times more quickly than his peers. Because of his condition, Jack's nervous parents (Diane Lane and Brian Kerwin) have kept him out of school. Instead, he has been tutored by the kindly Mr. Woodruff (nicely underplayed by Bill Cosby). While Jack is free from the taunts of other kids, he is quite lonely. At Woodruff’s suggestion, Jack starts attending fifth grade. Despite some early struggles, Jack eventually fits in (being 6 feet tall makes him popular on the basketball court). Unfortunately, he becomes depressed because he begins to realize that his condition may prevent him reaching adulthood like his classmates.
A set-up like this is hardly novel for Williams. In Jumanji, Toys and other movies, he plays children trapped in adult bodies. Nonetheless, he still does some terrific work here. While he could be accused of falling back on his hyperactive persona, Williams demonstrates a remarkable eye for children’s mannerisms and behavior patterns. He scratches himself at inopportune moments and reaches in and out of his shirt without any sense of self-awareness. If it weren’t for his height, he’d blend in with the real youngsters.
The script gives Williams ample room to work, but it’s a little too episodic. It also has enough flatulence jokes for a Jim Carrey movie. Coppola follows the storyline with the unflinching passionate devotion of a fundamentalist minister. He puts little effort in explaining the unlikely scenario and throws himself into presenting cuteness and pathos. He churns out sentimentality the way he churned out gore in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In the early scenes, he captures Jack’s sense of wonder at a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, but in some of the later scenes he piles on the sweetness so thickly it gets nauseating.
Watching this film with any cynicism or inquisitiveness will only yield to disappointment. While Williams has been more subdued in his last few roles, Coppola has never been known for his subtlety. If gushy sentimentality is what you crave, Jack will deliver (PG-13). Rating: 5.
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