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Picks and Pans Review: Spotlight

updated 08/14/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/14/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

>ONWARD CHRISTIAN'S BROTHER

LIKE HIS BIG BRO CHRISTIAN, RYAN Slater has a taste for the fast life. Which in the 12-year-old's case means whirling around parking lots near his Van Nuys, Calif., home—peeling rubber in his gas-powered go-cart. "I drive it until I get kicked off,'' laughs Ryan. "My mom is so freaked out."

Fortunately for Mom, asphalt isn't the only place Ryan appears to be on the fast track. Although casting director Mary Jo Slater, 49, vowed that her younger son would enjoy a more normal childhood than Christian, who was riding subways by himself to Broadway gigs as a 10-year-old, Ryan has turned his school vacations into an acting career, making four movies in as many years. For The Amazing Panda Adventure, set to open Aug. 25, he spent last summer in the Chinese Himalayas playing a boy who helps rescue two pandas from poachers. "This movie has a huge 'aww' factor," says director Christopher Cain. Ryan, says' Cain, "has one of those faces to die for."

Stacks of fan mail sit in the three-bedroom house where the 4'11" Ryan lives with his mother, her third husband (investment banker Bill Taron), a pair of stepsibs and two pooches. "Ryan's much more of a little stud than his brother was at that age," says his godmother, actress Joanne Dorian. "He's very charismatic, and he knows it." Jokes Christian: "I'm having shirts made that say, 'I am Ryan Slater's brother.' "

But despite his appeal, Ryan, the son of Slater and her previous husband, building inspector Jeffrey Wilson, 51, is more or less a normal sixth grader. He's a B + student at the private school also attended by Kirsten Dunst (Interview with the Vampire), and his hobbies include video games and "burping." During Ryan's visits with Christian, 25, who lives just blocks away, the pair go to the movies, shoot hoops and watch TV And here the younger Slater has been able to show his half-brother a thing or two. As Ryan explains, "I finally got him to like Beavis and Butt-head"

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