Sondra Locke, spunky blond costar of assorted Clint Eastwood epics, made her film-directing debut with this tale of a rodent-faced boy (S.L. Baird) who's exploited for crass commercial gain by a hustling self-promoter (Locke herself). The camera loves Locke and Locke loves it, and for the first hour or so of this oddly amiable project the two are hardly ever out of each other's gaze, though the star's naive narcissism is surprisingly easy to take and contributes quite a bit to the film's quirkily unself-conscious charm. There's not a lot of polish to Locke's direction, but she puts her characters in situations that leave plenty of room for imaginative opening out, and the sentimentality that surrounds the ratboy's predicament seems ingenuously fresh and unembarrassed, almost a return to Chaplinesque accessibility. Locke's moralism creaks (we all have to be instructed on the impropriety of exploiting the deformed), though it's light enough to be dismissable, and there's a warm glow of the fabulous to the tale that makes the rough edges shine a little more than they reasonably should. With Robert Townsend, Christopher Hewett, Larry Hankin, and Gerrit Graham; cinematography by Bruce Surtees, with makeup effects by Rick Baker.
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