Sort of a show-biz version of "Curly Sue," "Life With Mikey" exploits Michael J. Fox's youthful looks and coasts along on his personal charm along with the charm of young newcomer Christina Vidal.
The film revolves around Fox's character, a former child actor who starred in a hit sitcom (called "Life With Mikey") some years earlier and is still living off his former celebrity. He is also partners with his brother (Nathan Lane) in a floundering talent agency that handles kiddie clients.
At the moment, they have only one working client, whose cereal commercials keep them going, and a lot of untalented moppets, whom we see in frequent "audition" interludes. (Think "The Fabulous Baker Boys," "The Commitments" and "Ishtar," only less clever.)
Fox is a layabout, content to let his brother run the agency. But when Lane threatens to quit, he decides to straighten up. And, as chance would have it, Fox bumps into a street urchin (Vidal), who turns out to be a first-rate amateur actress. They meet when she picks Fox's pocket and he chases her down to get his wallet back, then watches in amazement as she charms another victim with a fabricated hard-luck story.
Realizing her potential, Fox sets up an audition for a cookie commercial and Vidal, naturally, gets the job. Since the girl's personal life is in a real upheaval, he agrees to put her up at his place for a few weeks, insisting she go to school and stop stealing. Their at-each-other's-throat relationship gradually wears off as they warm to each other, and Fox ultimately becomes a father figure.
This is gentle, sometimes sweet and very easygoing comedy. There are a few laughs but it's not particularly funny or urgent, and it's extremely predictable. In fact, the film itself is a lot like the "Life With Mikey" series, which we occasionally glimpse as Fox watches his old show on TV.
But it's also benign, with nothing particularly offensive unless seeing Fox smoking cigarettes or Vidal picking pockets is too much for you. And, of course, both characters will be encouraged to mend the errors of their ways before the warm and fuzzy fadeout.
Fox is effortlessly charming, as is young Vidal in her acting debut. They work well together and seem to be enjoying themselves. Pop singer Cyndi Lauper, as their ditzy secretary, also gets a few light chuckles, though it's a character we've seen all too often. And Lane, playing the world-weary brother, also gets off a pretty good line here and there. But the result is still rather bland.
What might have helped is simply a brighter, smarter screenplay and some punchier direction. It's not bad; it's just not a $5 ticket.
"Life With Mikey" is rated PG, for mild comic violence and even milder comic vulgar remarks.