|Brendon Ryan Barrett||Troy|
|Conrad Pope||Score Composer|
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A sixth grader discovers the joys and sorrows of first love -- as if he doesn't already have enough problems -- in this comedy. Eleven-year-old Lloyd (Todd Bosley) is short, skinny, awkward, and wears thick round glasses; in most any American school, these qualities are enough to make you the target of every bully within shouting distance, and Lloyd has gotten accustomed to his status as the butt of his classmates' jokes. Lloyd has also started to notice girls, which makes for even greater humiliation at home, as his eight-year-old brother Nathan (Sammy Elliott) has already mastered the fine art of sweet-talking the opposite sex. Lloyd has one close friend, the significantly less geeky Troy (Brendon Ryan Barrett), but their friendship begins to show signs of strain when Lloyd falls in love with Tracy (Kirsten Parker), a cute girl in his class. To Lloyd's annoyance, Tracy only has eyes for Storm (Patrick Higgins), a charismatically sullen junior high student; can Lloyd's mastery of magic tricks and way with a joke win him the girl of his dreams? Lloyd also features cameo appearances from Tom Arnold and Taylor Negron.
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This sort of Revenge of the Nerds for the elementary school set reminds that high school has nothing on grade school as the original social viper pit. Locally produced and filmed in a number of South Bay locations (including the backdoor of Bella Mia restaurant in downtown San Jose), this independent kids' film offers a coming-of-age tale as seen through the eyes of Lloyd (Todd Bosley), an awkward young misfit almost unanimously shunned at school for being ''ugly''--of course, the cruel behavior of Lloyd's classmates offers the story's only true ugliness. Through a couple of genuine friends, and with the assistance of a local magic store owner (Tom Arnold), Lloyd learns to fight back in his own way and embrace his misfit status, to the approbation of most of the student body. As in a lot of children's fare, there's an exaggerated perspective here sure to please kids--teachers are either cartoonish bullies or condescending milquetoasts--but The Ugly Kid also offers something of an adult's-eye-view of grammar school, with grown-ups sharing a few things with the class obviously intended for parental laughs, such as a P.E. coach's observations about the cafeteria-food menu at school fundraisers, or the soft-spoken, New Agey special education teacher (Taylor Negron) too-brightly announcing he has ''trouble with depression.'' Fortunately, there's enough goofing and pratfalling here to keep the kids giggling through most of the grown-up gags. (HZ)