Harriet Franklin- a humorless woman struggling to keep a hotel/restaurant supply company afloat in New Jersey- finds her life even more stressful when she learns that she has been named guardian to the young son of her recently deceased foster sister.
A woman "without a motherly bone in her body", Harriet reluctantly accepts the responsibility, but try as she might, is operating without any guidelines. It doesn't help that she hardly speaks the same language as her young charge, Albert.
His is a nine-year old's world of magicians, lounge entertainers and chorus girls. Raised backstage of Las Vegas' showrooms, Albert has little understanding or affection for the streets of Newark.
Bitter over his mother's death, disappointed by his inability to stay with his extended stage family, and alienated in his new surroundings, Albert seeks comfort in the companionship of his new found friend Bogus- a six foot plus, mop-topped, Frenchman who is invisible to all but the boy.
After an economical set-up, the story settles into a prolonged cycle of hit-and -miss attempts by both sides of this new "family" to reach a common ground. Albert compares all of Harriet's efforts against those of his devoted mother. At times, he deliberately goes out of his way to be defiant.
On the other side, Harriet struggles to sacrifice of herself, determined to spend her extra time expanding her business interests. More importantly, it soon becomes crystal clear that Harriet is severely uncomfortable with the concept of childhood- both Alberts', as well as her own abandoned past.
Events finally climax when Albert runs off to rejoin old acquaintances with disappointing results.
Whoopi Goldberg is solid as the serious-minded Harriet. With a mixture of concern and confusion (fueled by the desire to do the right thing), Harriets' is a challenging role. Despite her cynical comments and comedic grumblings, hers is a sympathetic character to anyone who has ever found themselves in uncharted parenting territory.
Asked to alternate between adorable and infuriating, carefree and desperate, Haley Joel Osment proves himself a talented young actor. His Albert is appropriately natural and precocious, save for a few directorial choices which come off as overly dramatic.
Less challenging, but more rewarding is the title role, perfectly filled by Gerard Depardieu- who has always seemed characteristic of an oversized teddy bear. Playful, yet wise, this perfect child's companion is compared within the story to the mythical white rabbit Harvey. Like the invisible pooka, Bogus is both advisor, confidant and sounding board; and every bit as real as the child within each of us will allow him to be.
It's a tribute to the writers and the filmmakers that Bogus made it to the screen at all. Having become a cultural buzz word, the "inner child" is often the tool of choice for satirical criticism. It's a wonder that the sensitivities of the script held any appeal to today's corporate Hollywood.
Fortunately, it did, and director Norman Jewison has constructed many moving scenes throughout in testimony to its strengths.
Despite the PG rating, Bogus is more geared toward an adult audience, with plotting too slow and uneventful for most young children. Not surprisingly, we had to clear the summer staple of shoot-em-up action pictures to find a gentler film of this type.