Friday, September 3, 2021


The latest in the new-to-me movies that started showing up in the FXM rotation recently is Kidco. It's got another airing tomorrow, Sept. 4, at 11:30 AM, so as always, I made a point of sitting down to watch it so that I could do a post on it here.

Dickie Cessna (Scott Schwartz) is a kid of about 11 who is also a smooth operator of the sort that would make Jack Carson's vintage characters like Wally Fay blush. As the movie opens, Dickie is running a keno game at his elementary school together with his kid sister. Unsurprisingly, the school eventually catches him and he gets suspended for it, being forced to go back home.

Home is a house attached to a resort just outside of San Diego. On the way home, he sees a couple of guys who are clearly feds in the way that River Phoenix sees the feds at the beginning of Running on Empty. They ask for directions to what is the Cessna house, and Dickie gives them directions that will send them to the Mexican border. But they eventually show up, looking for the parents (Charles Hallahan and Margaret Blye) as they have some tax issues to clear up. Dickie responds by making it look as though the family is living out in the barn, as if any adult would believe such nonsense.

Indeed, Dickie has all sorts of nonsensical schemes like that to try to make a buck. His father tends to the horses that the resort keeps and rents out to patrons who want to ride the trails, and even in that the Cessna kids have a scheme. But they're about to get a much bigger scheme.

Orville Peterjohn (Clifton James) runs one of the local businesses, supplying fertilizer both to the resort, which needs it for the golf course, and to other farmers and landscapers. He's pretty much the only game in town. But Dickie realizes that Dad, having to take care of 170 horses, has a lot of horse manure on his hands, which he is contractually required to dispose of, not the resort owner. Dickie concludes that all of this manure can be used to make fertilizer! And since he's got sub-minimum-wage child labor in the form of himself and his siblings, he can undercut Peterjohn!

It's a ridiculous scheme, because who's going to buy fertilizer from a 11-year-old kid? But there are a lot of independent contractor landscaping types working in cash off the books who are looking for any way they can to shave a buck or two off their expenses, so when word gets around that these kids, who by now have named the company Kidco, have lower-cost manure, they're willing to give it a try.

Peterjohn, understandably, is irritated, and wants to figure out some way to get rid of the competition. The first way is the legal one of trying to co-opt Kidco and basically make it a subsidiary of Peterjohn's company. But Dickie says no, leaving Peterjohn to call up the tax men and knock heads together to see if there's some way Kidco hasn't broken one of the myriad laws on the books.

Of course Kidco has violated all sorts of laws, from not getting the permits the state mandates to not paying income taxes. This is all enough for the authorities to issue an injunction and send the case to court, where Dickie decides to defend himself even though he has no knowledge of the law. By now all of the kids in America, having seen a segment of some show that nowadays would be used to fulfill the E/I requirements, are on Kidco's side, which puts political pressure on the court.

Kidco was a movie I was prepared to dislike deeply as it started, mostly because Dickie, even though he's just a kid, is the sort of character who's so obnoxious that you want to see somebody smack him, like Julie Harris in Member of the Wedding. But as Dickie gets into the manure business, and especially once the movie reaches the courtroom, Kidco becomes more and more unhinged from reality. Strangely enough, it's something that actually works in the movie's favor.

I'm not a lawyer, but if I had to guess, I'd figure that Dickie would be declared not old enough to sign any of the contracts he'd signed, at least not without a guardian involved, and his parents were never involved in the original contract. How to deal with the profits Kidco made is a thornier matter, but some arrangement could be worked out. The movie comes up with a different solution, but one that more or less works.

Kidco is a movie that's probably not going to be to everybody's tastes, but if you can make it through the first half hour or so, it really picks up and is definitely worth a watch.

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