Uneven 'Kid' Finds Strength in Sinbad

A fun-loving big man with an engaging personality, Sinbad is well suited to play the title role in HBO's lighthearted comedy-western "The Cherokee Kid," which premieres tonight.

A little corny and essentially family-friendly is an apt way of describing this moderately entertaining film and its star. It's simply difficult not to like Sinbad, who tends to come across in this movie like an overgrown kid. Even when he's stumbling around the film as a terribly inept gunslinger-in-training, you laugh with him and not at him.

Plot-wise, "The Cherokee Kid" offers one major surprise but not many others. Sinbad plays a farm boy whose parents are killed by ruthless railroad men. Raised thereafter by a pacifist reverend and his wife, he nonetheless vows to exact revenge on the man responsible for shattering his family.

Luckily, this natural-born klutz is taught by a number of colorful outlaw characters. Burt Reynolds turns in a marvelous comic performance as the eccentric mountain man, Otter Bob.

Otherwise, the film's humor is definitely a hit-or-miss proposition. The relationship between the Cherokee Kid (he's one-quarter Cherokee) and his theatrical sidekick Juan Nepomuceno Cortina (A Martinez) would seem to offer plum comedic opportunities. But the jokes and gags involving these two key characters tend to fall flat. A group of potentially outrageous renegade nuns is also underutilized.

"The Cherokee Kid" basically allows the genial Sinbad to play a variation of himself. To his fans, that in itself may be enough to make this movie a worthwhile experience.

* "The Cherokee Kid" airs at 8 tonight on HBO.

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