[Originally published in slightly different form in Movietone News 66-67, March 1981]
The critical adulation that greeted last yearâ€™s Breaking Away was symptomatic, in retrospect, not so much of a need to return to intelligent â€œlittleâ€ films as of an acclimatization to the smallness, safety, and literary limitations of the TV movie. Breaking Awayâ€™s strong suit wasnâ€™t anything particularly cinematic, but a witty, entertaining script that tended to carry the viewer through a series of artificial crises. The same is true of My Bodyguard. Alan Ormsbyâ€™s dialogueâ€”however unlikely in the mouths of 15-year-oldsâ€”is nothing if not clever. But Tony Bill, in his directorial debut, always opts for the safety of the TV-approved crisis-and-resolution, and the trite-and-true device. The story of the close relationship between a small, smart rich kid and a slow, gentle giant of a student who becomes his protector against bully extortionists in a Chicago high school unfolds in nothing more inventive and honest than a series of tired-since-the-Sixties montages. First, rich kid pursues giant through unfamiliar streets; second, rich kid and giant seekâ€”and find, in cutesypoo voicelessnessâ€”the last part needed to complete the motorcycle giant is working on as a dream project; third, rich kid and giant ride motorbike through a positively idyllic downtown Chicago; and fourth, rich kid loses giant and tries to find him in a nocturnal search through, again, unfamiliar surroundings. Interwoven with this basic device is an irrelevant subplot in which Ruth Gordon typically overdoes her eccentric-old-lady shtick, and the closest we come to a connecting thread between the two is the notion of the old lady as a foil to the gentle giant: old person â€œafraid not to liveâ€ counterbalances young person afraid to face life.