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Film review: First Kid

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 3 1996 12:00 a.m. MDT

That "First Kid" should be Sinbad's best film to date is no surprise, given how many stinkers he's been in. That Sinbad should actually be funny and even somewhat charming in it, much less any movie, is a surprise, though.

While it's not the best family comedy of the summer by any means, "First Kid" is likable enough, as is its star. Parents should be warned, however, that the ending is pretty violent, and there's some vulgar material (including a mooning scene) that actually pushes it toward PG-13 territory.

Sinbad stars as Sam Simms, a Secret Service agent - say that three times fast! - who's always screwing up his chances to be assigned to "Eagle" detail, or protecting President Davenport (James Naughton).

At the insistence of his mentor, Agent Wilkes (Robert Guillaume), Simms is given another chance, this time to protect Luke Davenport (Brock Pierce), the difficult "first kid," who has already ended the career of Secret Service Agent Woods (Timothy Busfield).

Things don't look too promising for Simms, either, especially after Luke sneaks out of the White House the first night of his assignment and after Luke winds up getting into a fight with a prep-school bully (Zachery Ty Bryan, from TV's "Home Improvement") while Simms simply watches.

It turns out, though, that Luke is just misunderstood. The 13-year-old is lonely because he sees his father so rarely and because he's treated like a prisoner in his own home. Eventually, he opens up to Simms, who teaches him how to defend himself, how to dance and how to talk to girls (the latter, in a funny scene that recalls "Cyrano de Bergerac").

In a moment of weakness, Simms helps Luke slip out during a bomb threat - so he can attend a dance - and both land in hot water. But Simms gets one last chance when Luke is kidnapped by the revenge-minded Woods, and he's the only one who can rescue the boy.

Director David Mickey Evans ("The Sandlot") wisely plays to Sinbad's strengths, including his aptitude for physical comedy. But the film sags around mid-point and never completely recovers. Also, its final fifteen minutes are a little too dark for what is supposed to be a light comedy.

The script, by former television writer Tim Kelleher, sprinkles in a few nice jabs that should make parents chuckle. Unfortunately, it has a sticky marshmallow center that's just a tad too heavy on the sweet side.

What really redeems "First Kid" is its performances. As stated before, Sinbad has never been better in a film. The former "Star Search" comedy competitor tones down his camera mugging and actually has some on-screen chemistry with Pierce, a decent teen actor who starred in "The Mighty Ducks" movies, as well as with Guillaume.

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