We tend to think of all children as natural actors whose work in movies is, to them, a form of play. The idea of a healthy kid who can't act seems almost as unlikely as the idea of a healthy kid who can't ride a bike.
But sometimes when I'm watching a movie like "Home Alone" or "E.T.," I wonder what would have happened if the untested child at the center of the picture had turned out to be an utter dud as an actor. That's what happens in "Crisscross."
I have no idea what the people who made this movie saw in David Arnott when they plucked him for the pivotal role of a troubled 12-year-old.
This luckless child gives what is possibly the most lifeless major performance in the history of the movies.
Chris Cross, the boy who Arnott plays here, lives with his mother in the Key West of 1969. His father, a former Navy pilot who freaked out after serving in Vietnam, now works as a groundskeeper for a religious order near Miami.
Of course, Chris misses his dad, but at least he has his mom. But when economic hardship forces her to take a job as a stripper, Chris becomes terribly cross with her. He starts dealing drugs so that she can quit, which is, of course, a very bad move on his part.
Goldie Hawn plays Chris' mother, a woman who seems intended to be about 15 years younger than Hawn's actual age of 46. The discrepancy shows. And although Hawn's performance isn't an ugly star turn, she's miscast. (She's a partner in the Hawn/Sylbert Company that produced this picture, so she seems to have miscast herself.) As for Keith Carradine, he has just one scene as Chris' father, which isn't bad, but which hardly matters.
But even if David Arnott's performance here had been better, "Crisscross" would still have major problems. The listless pacing suggests too many nights on the beach at Key West, and the limp, "After School Special" dialogue indicates too many afternoons in front of the TV.