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Picks and Pans Review: The Earthling

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“You’re half dead,” mutters William Holden to little Ricky Schroder. “Together that makes one of us.” Get the idea? Holden is dying of cancer. The kid—a role Schroder also played in 1979’s soppy The Champ—-has just lost his parents in a freak accident while the family is camping in the Australian outback. So poor Ricky finds himself threatened by lizards, huge snakes and marauding rats. Then, magically, Holden appears—the dying man hiking back to his ancestral home in the hills. He teaches the boy the ways of the woods while they trudge happily off into the sunset together. The plot contrivance is shopworn by now, especially for Australian movies (it started in 1971 with Walkabout). And the clichés about life and death seem silly. Holden, once a genuine matinee idol, appears tired. Only Schroder gets away with anything here. He may get to be in a good movie yet. (PG)