In 1996, actor Bruce Willis (co-producing with his brother David) launched a short-lived, silly syndicated TV cartoon about a boy superspy's adventures. This feature-length "movie," released the next year on home video, merely strings together a three-part episode ("Bye Bye Jarly") from
the half-hour show.
Unbeknownst to his parents, seemingly-average 10-year-old Bruno (voice of Bruce Willis) troubleshoots for a clandestined peacekeeping organization known as G.L.O.B.E. G.L.O.B.E.'s latest challenge: the nefarious Dr. Von Trapp has formed a "Union of Evil" of Bruno's worst enemies to steal
components for a ray gun that can control Earth's energy. While his parents believe he's at stamp camp, Bruno teams with his well-mannered adult partner Jarlsburg (voice of Tony Jay), and together they set upon the Union of Evil's international trail. In a fight at a suspicious saloon, however,
the resident henchman hold Bruno hostage to make their getaway. Unconsolable about losing his nerve in a crisis, "Jarly" quits G.L.O.B.E. Even worse, his replacement is nerdy Harris, a lab techno-geek responsible for most of Bruno's gadgets. Together, they confront each supervillain in turn,
Bruno's quick wits rescuing them time and again from different deathtraps. In the meantime, Bruno tries to lure a reluctant Jarlsburg back into the fray. Finally, all three wind up at the island fortress of Caribbean dictator Castrato, where the ray weapon is being assembled. Jarlsburg saves Bruno
and Harris--twice--and destroys the ray in a run on the fortress. The Union of Evil angrily abandons Von Trapp. Confidence restored, Jarlsburg rejoins G.L.O.B.E. Bruno returns home, his family oblivious to all his adventures.
The production company behind "Bruno" was Film Roman Inc., best known as the animators behind "The Simpsons," a high point in sophisticated satire. BRUNO THE KID aims for the smart-alecky wit of Jay Ward's classic "Rocky and Bullwinkle" shows while also engaging in campy 007 spy action. But while
"Rocky and His Friends" was an omnibus that could cram a handful of lively short spoofs into a half hour, Bruno and Jarlsburg slog through an entire plot. "Bruno" the TV series was tedious at 30 minutes; 75 minutes, as Jarlsburg would say, is a bit much, sir. Moreover, the plot's frantic
cliffhangers are frequently interrupted by flashbacks to previous cliffhangers, lazily patched in from other episodes, as Bruno and Jarly reflect on past perils. It saves on animation and scriptwriting but makes a tortured narrative even more so. Jokes, largely puns, are occasionally inspired, and
simplified line art hearkens back to the trendsetting "Gerald McBoing Boing." Joined by a number of celebrity voices for the guest villains, Bruce Willis does a good job in his own laid-back vocalizing. He first introduced Bruno as his alter ego in musical performances and thus dubbed his popular
1980s album The Return of Bruno.
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