July 15, 2012

THE SKID KID (1991/VHS/Glen Gruner) Review

Superheroes. I've always been a maniac for 'em.

• 1989: Batmania! Talked my fourth-grade teacher into letting me write, direct and star in a class play that was essentially an abridged adaptation of the Tim Burton film but with a part for Robin written in because I had been religiously watching reruns of the 1966 series. I was Batman, because I already had the costume, which I also wore for Halloween, as well as every other day of the year.

Not even this movie can escape Batman
• 1990: Turtlemania! A major point of pride for me was my complete collection (up to that point) of Ninja Turtles figures and vehicles, as well as a poster for the movie that was surrendered to me by the local theatre owner after continually hounding him each of the five times I came to see it. The following autumn, I won a pair of green foam-rubber practice nunchucks in a carnival dart game and wouldn't leave the house without them stuffed into my belt.

Some ninjerk with dumbchucks
• 1991: Skidmania! Skidmania?! Well, actually, no, but I'm sure some kid somewhere was scooting the backside off every pair of Jams shorts he owned, and his parents had Glen Gruner to blame for it.

The Skid Kid® Skidkit™, only $29.99 at all Kay Bee locations
That year, armed with an 8mm camera, a self-written screenplay and unlimited access to Susan & Steven Wolf's stable of acting offspring, the intrepid Gruner completed his own homebrew superhero adventure to add to the cache of caped/mutant/vigilante do-gooders and wrong-righters that every kid in America was mainlining into their eyeballs at that time -- The Skid Kid! Black-clad like Batman and teenaged like the Turtles, he's Union, Missouri's last line of defense against car thieves, thrill killers and wheelchair-jackers.

Wheelie envy
Scooter Spielberg (played by Gary Wolf and ten different Fake Shemps) is a homeless, orphaned Midwestern high school student who dreams of owning a black Corvette, does overly-choreographed handshakes with his best friend Harold, and actually ends conversations by saying "Gotta scoot!" One day after school, he comes across a pair of magical knee-high motorcycle boots abandoned at the end of two gruesome skid marks in the middle of the highway and immediately absconds with them, knowing they were somehow meant for him. Before you can say "tampering with evidence," he's zipping around town on his ass like a dog with itchy anal glands and skipping class to go beat the snot out of thugs wearing fright wigs and baja hoodies. Scooter's vigilante actions raise the attention of some FBI agents so bungling they can't devise a successful plan to catch him, let alone figure out how it is exactly that he's related to Steven Spielberg, a tidbit of information not even the audience is allowed to find out.

On the black hand side
In fact, there are a lot of question marks that The Skid Kid conjours up. He found the boots, sure, but where'd he get the rest of that suit? Why does it change slightly every other time you see it? And if his boots are magic, why do they need fuel? And how did he figure out that the fuel they need is name-brand cola? Does he have to sit for the boots to propel him? What if he stands? How did he conjour up a skateboard out of thin air for a fourth-grader and for that matter, what happens if he were to ride that skateboard? My analytical adult mind sure has a lot of queries. But you know what? Fuck my adult mind. This movie's for my inner kid.

PICTURED: My inner kid
So the acting is wooden, the padding is obvious, the film stock is cheap, continuity is nonexistant, characters are introduced and then dropped entirely, and it doesn't have a plot as much as it has a beginning, an end and a lot of randomly-inserted action scenes in between. So what? All of this actually works on behalf of The Skid Kid, dropping it squarely in the realm of the backyard opus, somewhere between Don Glut's Spider-Man and Dennis Muren's Equinox. Despite having some postures of a larger-budget production -- a cameo appearance by soon-to-be-TV-heartthrob Scott Wolf (Gary's brother), some very conspicuous product placement (an RC Cola can gets a closeup), a list of credits almost too long to take seriously (three assistant directors?) -- The Skid Kid feels like a real "c'mon guys, let's make a movie" movie and its goofy, unpolished energy took twenty years off my age for about 80 minutes.

No, stop, don't, owie
There were no Skid Kid action figures, no breakfast cereal tie-ins, no Panini sticker books with Gary Wolf's face on the cover, and it's safe to say there will never be a highly-anticipated Blu-Ray or people dressed in Skid Kid costumes wandering around Comic-Cons. Skidmania? Pop culture saturation of this level can hardly be deemed mania of any kind. In fact, the sole physical legacy of this film remains to be a VHS release distributed by Glen Gruner himself and even that's damn near impossible to track down, which is a shame -- The Skid Kid belongs on the shelf of any grown-up unjaded enough to remember how much fun it was to pretend to be a superhero, and any kid who hasn't yet stopped.


  1. Super awesome review. I really gotta get around to watching this soon!

  2. My dad brought this home one weekend in the early 90s. My friends and I, then in high school, became obsessed with it. I still have the vhs.
    What's crazy is the way it stands up to repeated viewings, even the weird bmx and skateboarding footage. I could go on, but I wouldn't want to spoil it for anyone.

  3. I don't want to read too much because I'm looking forward to it next weekend, but this movie looks like a heck of a lot of fun. I'm a fellow St Louisan who writes about similar-ish movies - www.iscfc.net - come and say hello if you're at the showing on Saturday.