August 18, 1996 -- "Jack" is a film with two different personalities. It begins as a comedy like "Big," but then it gets serious. O.K., so "Big" got serious, too.
The transition from comedy to drama was jarring, but the film manages the trick. Jack Powell (Robin Williams) is a boy who is aging at four times the normal rate. When he's 10, he looks 40. His parents Karen (Diane Lane, who also appeared in "Indian Summer") and Brian (Brian Kerwin), keep him at home and have him tutored by Lawrence Woodruff (Bill Cosby). They finally agree to send him to school, where he has trouble adjusting.
The story is quite funny for the first half of the film and then it gets serious, when Jack realizes that old age is catching up with him fast, real fast. He realizes he doesn't have very long to live and begins to wonder what the point is of going to school at all. It ends as a tear-jerker, not sadly, but certainly soberly.
The film touches on some interesting themes. The reluctance of parents to "let go" of their children and let them grow up, the loss of innocence, the transitory nature of life. The film deals with these issues in a positive, intelligent and moving way. Like "Phenomenon" and "Charly" this is a film about an extraordinary person who wants nothing more than to lead an ordinary life, but just can't.
It helps that Williams and Cosby are both very much at ease with their own "inner child." Both turn in good performances. The real surprise, however, is Diane Lane, who gives an outstanding performance as Jack's mother. She shows a broad range of emotions without going over the top.
The film appears to have been edited ruthlessly down to 113 minutes. There are dead ends as story lines open and then don't lead anywhere, but the end of the film is powerful. There are a couple of scenes that ought to have most people watery-eyed. This film rates a B.
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