Image Credit: Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic; ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty ImagesHaley Joel Osment was, for a brief but pivotal pop culture moment, one of the most famous child stars ever. He captured the zeitgeist with his gloriously freaked-out role in The Sixth Sense. Two years later, he starred in A.I., the long-awaited, much-debated, utterly bananas Steven Spielberg movie about a robo-boy who loves his mother. From there, Osment did a slow-fade from the public mainstream: voiceover acting for Disney, a token run-in with L.A. Law, and an initiation of the Jodie Foster Protocol (in which child stars attend top-tier East Coast universities; See also: Natalie Portman, Emma Watson.) But now: comeback alert! According to The Hollywood Reporter, Osment is starring in the upcoming Sex Ed, a comedy about a young college grad who wants to teach Algebra but ends up teaching the birds and the bees.
Child stars are a bizarre breed. When they’re young, they act like adults in kids’ bodies, way too self-aware for their own childhood. (Think Dakota Fanning in I Am Sam, or Chloë Moretz in Kick-Ass.) But when they get older, the equation flips: all the leftover celebri-kid energy makes them seem perpetually immature. That’s certainly true of Osment, who basically looks exactly like his 11-year-old self, with more facial stubble.
Still, I can’t help but root for the guy. Even if you don’t like A.I., you have to admit that Osment’s role in the movie is uncanny. Simultaneously embodying and deconstructing the modern idealized vision of childhood, Osment’s David is one of the most interesting protagonists in modern sci-fi history.
PopWatchers, do you think that Sex Ed will help Osment bridge the divide from “Child Star” to “Actor with a Real Career”? The plot description sounds more like a Judd Apatow joint starring Seth Rogen, which could be a good thing or a bad thing. (At least there are no lions in this movie.) And can we give Osment for his lead voice role in Kingdom Hearts? Sure, Sora’s one of the most annoying videogame heroes ever, but I suspect he’d be even worse without Osment’s easygoing delivery.
And no, PopWatchers, I haven’t forgotten about Pay it Forward…but I wish I could.