Picks and Pans Review: Life with Mikey

updated 06/14/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/14/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Michael J. Fox, Nathan Lane, Christina Vidal, Cyndi Lauper

Fox is to be commended for his bravery: appearing in what will be the wink-wink, nudge-nudge movie of the summer. The former smart-Alex star of the sitcom Family Ties and the Back to the Future movies, who has not exactly shed his lightweight image, plays a feckless former child star whose brief vogue was as the smart-aleck star of the sitcom Life with Mikey. Reduced afterward to guest shots on Hollywood Squares and The Love Boat—"Don't forget I did a Charlie's Angel," he says, defending his résumé—Fox now runs a kiddie talent agency with his put-upon brother (Lane) and dithering secretary (Lauper). With their slender fortunes slaked to a pubescent client with an economy-size ego and libido (David Krumholtz), the brothers are desperate for a new commission source.

Fox finds it when he loses his wallet—later, of course, his heart—to a streetwise 10-year-old pickpocket (Vidal) with a larger supply of tall tales than the Brothers Grimm. This is John Hughes country—in this case, politically correct country—because the filmmakers have cast a Hispanic in the key cute role. But it doesn't make for a bigger payoff, and it certainly doesn't change the basic tired formula: emotionally wounded adult and child teach each other life lessons.

In Life with Mikey, there are also lessons in nutrition and hygiene because Vidal is a bran-muffin-eating vegetarian who's as tidy as a Trappist, whereas Fox is a chain-smoking slob who coats his Froot Loops with curdled milk. The script has a few wonderfully sharp edges, notably Fox's comment that the girl who played his sister in the Life with Mikey series "is up for parole in a couple of months." But the movie's chief pleasures are parenthetical ones, such as the hilarious opening-credit, quick-cut auditions of spectacularly untalented moppets singing show tunes, performing magic tricks and reciting from Strindberg; and the inside-joke cameo appearances of playwrights Christopher Durang and Wendy Wasserstein and New York cable-TV strip-show hostess Robin Byrd. Vidal is perfectly competent but hardly mesmerizing enough to make credible her instant success, while Fox works hard in a role that fits as snugly as a wet suit. (PG)

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