The Movie Binge


Smokin' hairstyle piano playin' little dude.

On television or in the movies, precocious children are charming (see the popularity of Kids Say the Darndest Things and Raven-Symoné's whole career), but in "real life" a prodigy is more oddity than not. Ostracized by their peers and gawked at by adults, it's not far-fetched to imagine that even the most successful child geniuses might long for a moment when they can just blend in. This is the premise of Vitus, a charming albeit fantastical story about a Swiss piano player who exhibits staggering talents on the keyboard until a fall from his apartment balcony renders him "normal."

Our boy wonder is played by two actors in two important segments of his life — Fabrizio Borsani when Vitus is 6 years-old and Teo Gheorghiu at 12, both real life piano prodigies. His doting inventor father and ex-pat American mother realize conventional school is too easy for Vitus and get him a private piano tutor to nurture his talents. But Vitus seems most at home when he's doing regular kid things like flirting with his cute, older babysitter Isabel or learning simple carpentry with his salt-of-the-earth grandfather (Bruno Ganz). Flashing forward to the pre-teen Vitus, he's acting out in school because at 12, he's leagues smarter than his 17 year-old classmates and stalking his now hot ex-babysitter. A heart-to-heart with grandpa about finding what really makes him happy turns on a light bulb in Vitus's overactive brain. He just want to be regular and after a rainy late-night flight from balcony to the pavement below, he seems to be. No more cleaning his grandfather's clock at chess, no more expert piano pieces, no more off-the-charts IQ results for Vitus.

The final third of the film, post-accident, loses some of its momentum as Vitus's machination to aid his Dad sends the plot off the rails of believability, but at least director Fredi M. Murer has made a relatively entertainingly little art house flick. I'd much rather spend two hours with Vitus's brand of well-meaning weirdness than the creepy Joshua, another ahead of the curve kid currently gracing silver screens. Vitus wouldn't do freaky Rosicrucian things to your favorite dog when you're at work and he has enough social grace to sport a different hair style than Joshua's tiny Republican crop. Also, Vitus likes Thai food and can fly small airplanes which constitutes a catch in my book.