August 12, 1996 12:00 PM

Robin Williams

Williams, in the latest star vehicle à la Gump, plays a boy whose body is aging at four times the normal rate. By the time he is 10, he has reached a physical middle age and is trapped in Williams’s hirsute, thickchested body. It must feel like being buried in a roll of shag carpeting. But Williams moves through the film very lightly, never overdoing the physical comedy of a giant squeezing in among other schoolchildren, not milking the pathos of a boy who has to touch up his graying, thinning hair. Williams himself seems to have grown up into an unexpectedly soulful actor.

Director Francis Ford Coppola keeps everything quiet and sweet, as he did in the 1986 fantasy Peggy Sue Got Married, extracting simple truths about the swift passage of life.

Despite all this, one is not grateful. Nothing in Jack manages to erase the crushingly sad fact that it’s about a doomed child, an Elephant Man for kids. (PG-13)

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