Capitalizing on the recent comeback of George Burns in films like The Sunshine Boys and Oh, God!, as well as the rising career of young Brooke Shields, Leonard Stern's Just You and Me, Kid (1979) attempted to mine gold from their 70-year age difference. Long-retired and wealthy showman Bill Grant (Burns) lives a quiet life, routinely cooking for himself, puttering around the grocery store and fooling passers-by with simple illusions. One morning, he suddenly finds Kate (Shields) hiding in his trunk and reluctantly takes her home. She's on the run from the drug dealing Demesta (William Russ), who's apparently missing a large sum of money. But laying low at Bill's house proves to be harder that it sounds: he's quite busy for a retiree and has lots of visitors. During her short stay, the spunky and ill-mannered young girl finds a soft spot for this unexpected (grand)father figure; if nothing else, at least he doesn't yell at her all the time.
It's easy to root for Bill and Kate, if only because almost everyone else in Just You and Me, Kid is either obnoxious or one-dimensional. From a pair of nosy neighbors (seen below, whose running gag is dressing alike) to Bill's irritating daughter Shirl (Lorraine Gary), almost every outsider grates on the nerves. The biggest offender is drug dealer Demesta, whose half-baked tough-guy posturing makes him one of the least convincing villains in recent memory. Of course, this is more due to inconsistent writing than Russ' performance: he's rarely given enough teeth to feel like a genuine threat, and it's never more obvious than the "climactic" chase scene and Demesta's unsuccessful standoff with an 83 year-old man, a 14 year-old girl and a trick sword. Basically, he makes Joe Pesci in Home Alone look like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas.
Even so, this means that our unlikely duo has to carry most of the weight...and more often than not, their interactions are charming enough to make it work. "Generational gap" comedies weren't even new and different in 1979 but Burns and Shields are something of an inspired match: he's quick-witted enough to keep up with the spunky young starlet and she's confident enough not to look like she's in over her head. To the film's credit, the unlikely pairing never borders on creepy and, despite a number of lines and moments that you definitely wouldn't see in a "PG" movie nowadays, even the film's least innocent moments don't seem all that gratuitous. For the sake of comparison it's no Pretty Baby, either in level of controversy or artistic value. At the very most, Just You and Me, Kid might be a nostalgic favorite that you'll enjoy revisiting on home video. At the very least, it's a watchable enough comedy with infrequent replay value. But I'll be completely honest here: it took three people to write this movie and it feels like nobody got what they wanted.
Unfortunately, Sony's "Choice Collection" DVD package doesn't offer much in the way of support. Having never ever been granted a VHS release, this burn-on-demand disc actually marks a domestic home video debut that only took 35 years to surface. It's a completely phoned-in effort in almost every department, from the relatively bland visuals to a complete lack of bonus features (heck, there's not even a menu!). Not surprisingly, this limits the appeal of Just You and Me, Kid considerably, at least enough to barely recommend a purchase to only its most enthusiastic fans.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
The first (and probably last) appearance of Just You and Me, Kid on home video is watchable...but like the film itself, what we see isn't much to write home about. Although the low budget probably meant that it didn't use top-quality film stock, it's almost impossible to determine if certain problems are due to this transfer or the source material. The overall image is flat, soft and has a distinct video-like appearance on the whole...which, by all means, is better than any VHS presentation but barely on the level of our expectations for even standard definition. Regardless, Just You and Me, Kid is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, enhanced for 16x9 displays and relatively clean overall, so things could be much worse. But we're also more than 15 years into the format's lifespan...so things could be a lot better, too.
DISCLAIMER: This review's compressed, resized screen captures are strictly decorative and do not represent this DVD's native 480p resolution.
Surprisingly enough, the included Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix offers a more substantial experience than "1979 comedy" implies. Though dialogue and most sound effects don't feature a great deal of separation, Jack Elliott's era-specific score sounds terrific and serves up plenty of bass (almost overwhelmingly so, on a handful of occasions). The end result is more than acceptable under the circumstances...although the lack of optional English subtitles and/or Closed Captions proves unfortunate, as some viewers may have difficulty deciphering a handful of words or phrases along the way.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Believe it or not, there's no menu interface here; after a slew of warning screens and logos, the film just starts right up with no setup options, chapter selection (though some are present) or anything else. Likewise, the no-frills packaging features original poster art framed by Sony's "Choice Collection" template in a cheap eco-friendly keepcase. The burn-on-demand disc appears to be locked for Region 1 players only and (obviously) includes no bonus features of any kind.
Slowly but surely, burn-on-demand programs are, at the very least, ensuring that certain long-buried catalog titles will continue to be rescued from analog oblivion. Don't get me wrong: Just You and Me, Kid is most certainly not a career highlight for anyone involved and has, in many ways, aged pretty badly. A number of God-awful supporting characters (and/or performances) don't help matters either, and some of the content will surprise anyone who's forgotten the ratings system before "PG-13" existed. But to a certain extent, the pairing of Burns and Shields is amusing enough to carry some of the weight. Sony's DVD-R offers a passable A/V presentation...but considering the film's limited appeal and a complete lack of supplements, this is most definitely a "try before you buy" disc. Rent It, if at all possible.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.