The movie begins with Karen Powell (Diane Lane) going into labor during a Halloween party and being rushed to the hospital by her husband, Brian (Brian Kerwin), and their friends. Although the delivery is successful, the baby is premature, born after only ten weeks of pregnancy, and is diagnosed with an exaggerated form of Werner syndrome (an aging disease) as stated by Dr. Benfante (Allan Rich) and Dr. Lin (Keone Young). According to them, as this very rare autosomal recessive disorder progresses, Jack Powell will age at a rate four times faster than normal children due to his internal clock that seems to be developing faster.
Ten years later, Jack (Robin Williams) is next seen as a 10-year-old boy in the body of a 40-year-old man, with a group of four boys telling possible stories of a "monstrosity" of a boy their age that cannot go to school. He scares them away by dipping a fake eye into slime and throwing it at them from his window. He is extremely childish as a consequence of his secluded life. He has only had contact with his parents and tutor, Lawrence Woodruff (Bill Cosby), who introduces the idea that he should go to public school. His parents initially balk at the idea of their son going there because he could be emotionally hurt.
When he first attends school, he is exploited by the other kids to win at basketball against bullies, and eventually to get adult magazines and other such items. As time goes by, he is accepted by them, beginning with Louis, as they discover that they like him. He attempts to be normal there, for example, when he deals with his first crush and heartbreak, and the relationship with his teacher, Miss Marquez (Jennifer Lopez). When he goes through a fall while attempting to leave school, he is rushed over to the hospital, where his doctor explains that he suffered a shocking severe strain (which could've been a rare form of angina), and also because of his Werner Syndrome condition, his internal clock is starting to run out. Realizing the dangers it might entail for his health, his parents decide to withdraw him from school, which upsets him.
He sneaks out of the house and goes to a bar where he gets drunk and befriends a man named Paulie (Michael McKean) and tries to hit on Dolores (Fran Drescher), the mother of his classmate Louis. However, he then gets into a fight with another man (Edward Lynch) and is arrested. Dolores bails him out and, upon returning home, Jack locks himself in his room and doesn't go out for weeks. His mother speculates that perhaps he realized the fragility of his life and is now scared of facing the outside world again. He also doubts the need to study as he realizes that he wouldn't have the time to use any of the knowledge.
Meanwhile, his friends continue coming to his house, hoping that he will come out and play, but he refuses. Finally, Louis has an idea: he brings the entire class to Jack's house as they take turns yelling "Can Jack come out and play?" and participate in various games and fun activities right in front of the house. The next day he decides to go back to school.
Seven years later, an elderly looking Jack and his four best friends are at their high school graduation. He delivers the valedictory speech, in which he reminds his classmates that life is short, and urges them to "make your life spectacular". The film ends as the five drive away down the road and into their future lives.
- Robin Williams as Jack Powell
- Brian Kerwin as Brian Powell
- Diane Lane as Karen Powell
- Jennifer Lopez as Miss Marquez
- Bill Cosby as Lawrence Woodruff
- Fran Drescher as Dolores "D.D." Durante
- Adam Zolotin as Louie Durante
- Todd Bosley as Eddie
- Seth Smith as John-John
- Ryan Kennedy as George
- Michael McKean as Paulie
- Allan Rich as Dr. Benfante
- Keone Young as Dr. Lin
- Allison Whitbeck as Lucy
- Dwight Hicks as High School Principal
- Mark Coppola as Radio Personality (voice)
The film received mostly negative reviews from critics. It holds a 17% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. However, the film debuted at #1 and it was moderately successful at the box office, grossing roughly $58.6 million on a budget of $45 million.
The film theme is "Star", performed by Canadian rocker Bryan Adams.
- Tom Hanks and John Schneider were both considered for the role of Jack Powell, before Robin Williams finally got the part.
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