Although Blank Check was beloved by children who didn’t know any better, it was a complete commercial failure and overall dud, in my adult opinion. Disney had the right formula, however. They knew kids would love to see stories about other kids who were rich or unique in some way going through the same trials and tribulations that everyone else goes through in the process of growing up.
One of the best examples of a well-executed pains-of-growing-up kid adventure film is Disney’s First Kid. Released 2 years after Blank Check, First Kid had time to mature as a script and also pooled enough cash to wave in a well-established comedian’s face. Sinbad is the perfect comic foil in any film (See: House Guest, Jingle All the Way). His blend of street smarts and physical comedy make for a lovable blend and a believable lead character.
Disney’s First Kid is a 1996 film about young Luke Davenport, an average 13-year-old boy who lives a not-so-average lifestyle. Luke is son of the current president of the United States and he’s locked up in his Capitol Hill kingdom like Jasmine in Aladdin, never allowed any fun and rarely getting to see his busy politico parents. This kind of stifling of childhood causes him to act out in various entitled, disobedient ways, but it’s hard to blame him.
It is only when Secret Service officer Sam Simms (Sinbad) is hired that the fun really begins. He’s hired to protect Luke, but Simms is also really good at helping and teaching Luke how to fight through the obstacles of modern adolescence. From dealing with his crush on a pretty girl to handling bullies and learning how to dance, Simms is willing to disregard the advice of his superiors and show Luke what it means to be cool. However, this rule-bending doesn’t go unnoticed and Simms is later relieved of his duty for his insubordination, leading Luke to run away and find himself in a sticky predicament and allowing Simms the opportunity to save Luke’s life and prove his own truly heroic, well-intentioned nature.
The film straddles somewhere between being a heartfelt, sympathetic coming-of-age story about a kid who longs to be normal and a comedic opportunity for Sinbad to fall down a bunch. First Kid succeeds at doing both and the results are a joy to watch for kids and tolerable for adults. The second half of the film really succeeds in helping the audience empathize with the awkward teenage phase that Luke is going through. I’ll also give the film credit for avoiding the cliche “use your words” solution to Luke’s bullying problem and instead letting him punch the shit out of that douche bag Brad from Home Improvement. Although Brad was absolutely the alpha son in the Tim Taylor ABC sitcom, he’s a complete asshole in this movie.
My favorite parts of the film are Sinbad teaching Luke how to dance (as pictured above), and the skating rink birthday party scene. There’s something about skating rinks that just scream 90s to me. I frequented my own local rink every Friday night in 6th grade and it’s where I had my first real kiss (with tongue). Because of this personal connection, I took the time to capture my favorite parts of the skating rink scene to give my readership a chance to share in the splendidly family-friendly 90s comedy glory.
This first clip shows Luke’s brilliant attempt to hide his identity at his girl crush, Katie’s, birthday skate party. Luke is sporting a backwards hat and what looks like an A.C. Slater from Saved by the Bell dark, jerry curl wig. Sinbad is too big and black to hide so easily, so he is instead forced into a giant Coca-Cola costume with a large pizza sticking out of the top. Aside from the brilliantly un-subtle product placement by the Coca-Cola company, there’s also the logical question of why the fuck is there pizza in a cup of soda? Do people often dunk their pizzas in cola? Seriously, that’s fucking gross.
The scene is an excellent display of Sinbad’s physical comedy skills as he proves that he can’t skate worth a damn. He’s teased by the onlooking kids and thrown into a wall by Brad and his cronies. The best part about the wall incident is that the camera shows a view from inside the costume and we get a rare look at the world through the eyes of a pizza. I figured Disney could spring for better effects than a piece of cellophane with fake mushrooms and onions taped to it, but I thought wrong.
The second clip is Luke begging god to give him a sign that Katie is supposed to be with him. He sees Brad flirting up Katie and needs a miracle to stop their blossoming relationship in its tracks. He gets his wish as Brad’s friends fling Sinbad the pizza cola monster over the wall of the skating rink and directly onto Katie’s beautiful birthday cake. Brad’s post-prank giggles piss Katie off and she screams at him for ruining her birthday. Luke gives a triumphant “Thank you.” The best parts about this scene is another quick shot of pizza vision and a triple-replay of the cake impact. The 90s really knew how to showcase their money shots. This applies to both pornography and Disney films.
In the end, First Kid is a delightful teenage romp and another quality Sinbad film. While it’s generic and cheesy at times, the end result feels pretty genuine. When it comes to kids movies, you could certainly do much worse.