Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
If there's anything I can't stand in a movie, it's a sweet, lovable, cute little kid who is so adorable, and knows he's so adorable, you want to cringe. That's why seeing Gary Coleman in “On the Right Track” was so much fun for me. I don't know how other people relate to Coleman, the precocious three-foot-nine-inch star of TV's "Diff'rent Strokes," but in my opinion he is the shortest cynical adult in the history of the movies.
It is probably true, I suppose, that Gary Coleman is cute. He is probably also capable of being sweet, and no doubt his family loves him. But Coleman doesn't bask in his own high opinion of himself. He always seems to be thinking up a scam. In a scene where a big-city mayor comes to pat Coleman on the head and tell him what a great kid he is, Coleman sizes up the mayor like he's getting ready to ask for a patronage job. Gary's tireless self-assertion in his relationships with adults is the best thing in this movie.
Unfortunately, there are also a great many other things in “On the Right Track.” What could have been a bright little comedy is so jampacked with supporting players, subplots, and distractions that it seems much longer than it is, and even Coleman's fortitude doesn't get us through. Gary plays a little shoeshine boy who lives in a double locker In Chicago's Union Station. He's a little hustler who knows all the people in the station, especially the pizza man (Herb Edelman) and the cashier in the amusement arcade (Lisa Eilbacher). They look out for him, especially when the cigar-chewing boss of the shoeshine concession tries to run him out of business.
The plot involves a well-intentioned ploy by the city to move Gary from his locker in Union Station and into an orphanage (which is run by a towering matron who looks like Ilsa, She-Wolf of the S.S.). Gary doesn't like it in the orphanage. And when his police juvenile officer (Michael Lembeck) discovers that the kid has the gift of perfectly predicting the winning horses in the daily trifecta, suddenly a whole lot of adults get very protective of Coleman.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
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