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Mr. Rice's Secret

Starring David Bowie and Bill Switzer
Screenplay by J. H. Wyman
Directed by Nicholas Kendall
no website

IN SHORT: Slow moving, very subtle message for kidlets flick. [Not Rated. 92 minutes]

Owen (Bill Switzer) has a friend named Mr. Rice (David Bowie). Owen also has Hodgkin's Disease and expects to die real soon. But Mr. Rice dies first, after giving his best friend Owen a decoder ring that had been given to him by an earlier best friend.

. . . All this best friend business is a wee bit creepy when you're looking at a middle aged man and a young boy, but we trust Bowie not to be involved in anything that sick, and he's not. We'll come back to this in a bit . . .

Owen and his friends, Gilbert (Tyler Thompson),Veg (Jason Anderson), and Funnel Head (Zachary Lipovsky) keep a secret book in which they log points for doing things they're not supposed to do. It's nice to see that some ideas don't change from generation to generation. Owen got his latest points by sneaking into Mr. Rice's funeral -- none of the neighborhood kids were allowed to go -- and videotaping it. The quartet think it would be very cool if they sneak into Mr. Rice's house and watch the tape there. But inside the house is a letter to Owen. It is in code. Thus begins the mystery of Mr. Rice's Secret.

Oh, would that it were a really good mystery, with lots of twists and turns before you get to The Secret. It's not. The Secret is secondary to that of Owen's treatment of a kidlet sicker than he is, named Simon (Richard De Klerk). Simon is in the same cancer treatment program as Owen and wants to be friends. Owen wants nothing to do with the boy because a) he's visibly sicker and a possible portent of things to come and b) the other kids don't want the cancer kid around. Simon gets his revenge on Veg and Funnel Head by ratting them out about the break-in at Mr. Rice's house. They, in turn, beat the crap out of him.

It's a moral story and The Secret is an integral part of the to-come relationship between Owen and Simon. It involves Owen learning to think unselfishly. We don't mean to be mysterious because the movie makes a good point. But there's a problem. Little kids will sit through anything -- we've seen it with our niece and nephew and we do mean anything -- just to see where it's going. The message of Mr. Rice's Secret is too subtle for the little kids. It will require a parent to sit and watch and explain the lesson. For this grown-up, sitting and watching until the story got to the point was real slow going. If we popped back into the mindset we had back around age fifteen, sitting through Mr. Rice's Secret would have been impossible.

Second, The Secret has something to do with the fact that Mr. Rice is not the middle aged guy he appears to be. The film makers could have employed a bit of makeup to make Bowie look older, if not elderly, and had they done so the "best friend" relationship would have worked. Think young kid doing favors to help an old guy to infirm to do 'em and you get our drift. Heck, give the man a pair of canes and tell him to stoop a bit and it would have worked. As for the rest, there are well acted a believable relationship among the kids which could have held the interest of teens if the film didn't move at a snail's pace.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Mr. Rice's Secret, he would have paid...

$3.00

Rent it if you're a parent and you want to teach your kidlets a lesson.

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