It’s been 25 years since Robin Williams portrayed a young child in a grown man’s body in the unique family comedy movie Jack. Directed by legendary filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather trilogy), Jack was written by James DeMonaco (The Purge series) and Gary Nadeau (The Jennie Project). Along with Williams, the movie stars Diane Lane, Jennifer Lopez, Brian Kerwin, and Fran Drescher.
In Jack, Robin Williams plays Jack Powell, a 10-year-old boy who ages four times faster than normal as a result of Werner syndrome. Because of his condition, Jack had been sheltered for the first ten years of his life, but they acquiesced to his requests to let him attend public school. The consequences are simultaneously funny, heartwarming, and dramatic, as Williams manages to strike all of these emotions with his unforgettable performance in the role.
Unfortunately, Jack wasn’t given the reception it deserved when it was first released in 1996. Though it debuted at No. 1, it fell short of expectations with many critics lambasting the movie. For his part, Coppola would later stand by the movie and Williams’ performance, seemingly confused as to why people were so hard on it at the time.
“Jack was a movie that everybody hated and I was constantly damned and ridiculed for. I must say I find Jack sweet and amusing,” Coppola once said. “I don’t dislike it as much as everyone, but that’s obvious-I directed it. I know I should be ashamed of it but I’m not. I don’t know why everybody hated it so much. I think it was because of the type of movie it was. It was considered that I had made Apocalypse Now and I’m like a Marty Scorsese type of director, and here I am making this dumb Disney film with Robin Williams. But I was always happy to do any type of film.”
Looking back now, the speech Williams gives in character toward the end of Jack is something that really resonates today, especially in light of losing the beloved actor in 2014. Sticking with school despite its many challenges, a flash forward scene reveals Jack at his high school graduation, the culmination of his efforts to live as much life as he could in the short amount of time that he had. With the body of an elderly man, Jack encourages everyone else to live their lives to the fullest while they still can as well in the Francis Ford Coppola film.
“I don’t have very much time these days, so I’ll make it quick. Like my life,” Jack quips. He goes on to say, “Please, don’t worry so much, because in the end, none of us have very long on this earth. Life is fleeting. If you’re ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky when the stars are strung across the velvety night. When a shooting star streaks through the blackness turning night into day, make a wish and think of me.”
He adds: “Make your life spectacular. I know I did.”
Rest in peace, Robin Williams. Every performance he gave really was something special, and this movie is of course no different. It might not be the most popular title in Williams’ body of work, but it’s certainly worth watching for any fan of the late comedian. If you want to revisit Jack, or if you’ve yet to watch it for the first time, the movie can be found streaming on Disney+.