Steven Spielberg directed the “Kick the Can” segment and was given a producer credit on the 1983 film. Here’s some remarks from the new review:
The profanity filled review takes aim at the prologue: “What the hell are Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks doing on screen? Why the f**k are they singing Creedence Clearwater Revival? Isn’t this supposed to be a horror movie (though their singing voices are scary enough)? Isn’t this supposed to be ‘The Twilight Zone’?
“Yes, it’s a bait-and-switch prologue, directed by John Landis (only two years removed from directing An American Werewolf in London), designed to catch you off guard, and it’s one of the moments of pure joy in this film, which, much like all anthology films, is inherently a mixed bag. You have some of the greatest minds of the post-New Hollywood era coming together — John Landis, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante, and George Miller — and somehow you only wind up with a movie that has two truly solid segments and a hell of a lot of baggage; some seriously f***ed-up stuff that happened behind the scenes of this film.”
“…the second segment, directed by executive producer Steven Spielberg, is nearly unanimously reviled by critics and viewers alike, and it is by far the worst segment of the bunch. It was a dubious choice from the start for Spielberg to direct an adaptation of “Kick the Can,” a bittersweet and pathos-filled story of aging and regret whose magic is tempered by Serling’s writing, but it’s easy to see why the story would have appealed to him. In short, it’s about the old becoming young again, literally, where a group of seniors from a retirement home, led by a dissatisfied old man, discover the secret to being young again, despite the objections and doubts of a concerned friend and the home’s administrator.
“It is a magical realist fable where little is explained (the transformation simply coming from the old folks’ belief), one assisted by the light touch of its creator, and it’s subtly great half-hour of television. Spielberg throws all of that out of the window and replaces it with heaps and heaps of smarm, and it’s probably the only time in his illustrious career that the master would be outdone by Ron Howard, whose own take on the old-getting-young story, Cocoon, was only a few years away and is significantly better than this short.
“His greatest mistake is perhaps the most obvious: The casting of Scatman Crothers as the mystical source of the age-reversal, which opens up the story to an uncomfortable line of “Magical Negro” criticism that wasn’t there in the first place (it’s a bit ironic that the episode from the ’60s is the more politically forward of the two), and also Spielberg can’t tell exactly when his story is drifting off into uncomfortable territory. There are some aspects from this update that do make sense: The addition of a whole host of characters as opposed to the conflict between the main two, and the changed ending, in which most of the residents, as children, choose to turn back into adults so that their families would recognize them, but all in all, it’s a bit of a wash.
“Kick the Can” is pretty much an embodiment of everything that Spielberg haters unfairly claim about the director, but it has occasional moments of brilliance, usually glanced in small details- the transformation of the nursing home’s orange tabby cat into a kitten alongside the rest of the children is a small touch that went a long way for this cat owner; and Crothers’ joyous performance is honestly good enough to stave off any complaints until the short itself is over.
Check out the full review HERE