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A Study in Spielberg (bonus review): Twilight Zone – The Movie, “Kick the Can”

08 Apr

TwilightZonetheMovie

In midst of making the best and most popular movies the world had ever seen, in 1983 Steven Spielberg took a break from his usual feature-length format to be part of the nostalgia-fest known as Twilight Zone: The Movie, four stories directed by four different directors who put together a sort-of tribute to Rod Serling’s classic series about crossing the boundaries of time and space.

Nestled in between bombastic stories about racism, aviophobia and a bizarre trip to a house full of living cartoons, Spielberg offered the gentlest of the quartet.  “Kick the Can” starred Scatman Crothers as (what else?) a kindly old man who is loaded with magic.  He’s introduces himself as Mr. Bloom and he moves into Sunnyvale Rest Home, a dingy old place that the world seems to have been forgotten or ignored.  Its sad residents seem to be mired in a day to day routine of day to day routine that offers them nothing resembling a life.

As the residents begin to amuse themselves by reminiscing about the good old days, Mr. Conroy the community party-pooper reminds them that nostalgia is a useless exercise.  But Bloom sees it as a portal to life’s magical rewards that everyone else seems to think have withered away with the adamant of time.

In true Twilight Zone fashion, Bloom offers them a chance to be young again, to go outside and play like children.  So, in the middle of the night, on the well-kept grounds of Sunnyvale, the residents literally become children, climbing trees, dancing, playing games and recapturing the life and energy of their youth.  Of course, it’s all fun and games until someone mentions the fact that returning to one’s youth means returning all the heartache and pain that life will give them along the way.  The message, apparently, is that once-around is enough.  If you watch this segment, I guarantee, you can see that message coming a mile away.

Just off of directing the child-centric E.T., it might seem reasonable that Spielberg would want to explore the idea of elderly people rediscovering the magic of being children, but the story is obvious and the message is really laid on thick.  It has the old Spielberg magic (and corniness), but somehow you feel that the story might have worked better in a longer format or as an episode of “Amazing Stories”.  In the larger scope of “Twilight Zone: The Movie”, I prefer the story about the cartoon people.  This one slathers on the sentiment until it sinks under the weight of it’s own profundity.

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