"Jack," the story of a ten-year-old boy trapped in the body of a forty-year-old man, is one of those films that's so "feel good" you actually have to pull the director's hand out of your pants when it's over. Combining the abject cutesiness of "Big" with the "life is short, experience it while you can" theme of "Awakenings," director Francis Ford Coppola manipulates our emotions with his unique brand of foreplay, which includes the bold, unexpected casting of Robin Williams as the man-child.
When Bill Cosby appears as Jack's tutor, Mr. Woodruff, you know "Jack" will stop at nothing to gain audience sympathy -- "Dear God, Bill Cosby is appearing in another movie, please let it be good. Please?"
Who else can Coppola suck up to? Try fans of "The Nanny." Fran Drescher shows up needlessly as the mother of Williams' best friend. Her character, a woman too stupid to realize that Jack isn't a school principal, no doubt presented another tricky casting challenge -- until Coppola and the producers looked at each other and said in unison: "Drescher."
Imagine a bullet of emotion streaking toward your forehead in slow motion and you'll have sense of the pain endured when Coppola's camera lingers on a butterfly that dies in the palm of Jack's hand. Repeat after me: GEE, IS JACK HIMSELF LIKE A BEAUTIFUL THING WITH A SHORT LIFE? Making the subtext any more obvious would have required subtitles.
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