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On Mar. 12, 2021, Hulu released the platform-exclusive documentary “Kid 90.” The film centers around famous kid actress Soleil Moon Frye, known for playing Punky Brewster in the ‘80s sitcom “Punky Brewster.” Frye, who lived in Hollywood for most of her youth, frequently filmed herself and her fellow famous friends on a ‘90s camcorder. The videos, along with voice recordings and current day commentary from some of the young celebrities featured in Frye’s old footage, tell the story of not only Frye’s teenage years, but what it was like to live as a child star in the ‘90s.
The story of the documentary does somewhat follow a linear story of Frye growing up, from starring in “Punky Brewster” in the ‘80s to moving to New York for college in the late ‘90s, but it does take different and sometimes confusing story routes. Jumping from one plot point to the next, the story takes no time in introducing what Frye is talking about or what her footage is showing. The plot, when it finds a part in Frye’s life to concentrate on, is fascinating to watch. Some details, such as Frye’s horrible experience with sexual assault, are introduced and concluded so quickly that the viewer has no time to take in what they just watched. When the story does get focused, however, it is truly an enjoyment to get to see firsthand the lives of teenage stars in the ‘90s.
Mixing footage from a ‘90s video recorder with modern technology is no easy task, but “Kid 90” does a good job in combining the two mediums. Frye’s commentary in the present day never goes on for too long, and the testimonies from other ‘90s stars are sprinkled in nicely. The ‘90s video recordings, while very interesting and fun to watch, can sometimes be too overwhelming, however. Frye’s video tapes are mostly smooth if not a little grainy, but occasionally, the video will lag for too long or be too shaky. In small doses, there is nothing wrong with these little flaws, as they illustrate the technology of the ‘90s and make the film more human. There are several moments in the documentary, however, in which these violently trembling videos are placed back to back, which can easily give viewers a headache or case of dizziness.
Easily the most successful aspect of the documentary was the message it conveyed. Teenage years are not easy for anyone, but many people overlook the struggles of young celebrities because of their fame. The idea that teenage stars have normal, human problems is nothing new, but the raw footage of Frye and her friends coping with being in the public eye makes the message even more real. Listening to Frye and her fellow ‘90s kid stars talk about their inner battles has been done by countless celebrities before, but their testimonies paired with Frye’s video recordings result in a unique, powerful documentary about not overlooking someone’s troubles just because of their status or circumstances.
While “Kid 90” has its flaws, it ultimately reflects the ups and downs of not only the lives of celebrities, but teenagers in general. Frye’s footage is the best part of the film, as it documents both the beautiful and simple moments, as well as the low and hopeless moments of life. The film is also a perfect time capsule, as it not only gives people who grew up in the ‘90s a sense of nostalgia, but also allows modern teenangers a glimpse of what life was like three decades ago. Whether it’s to see what Soleil Moon Frye and her friends were up to in the ‘90s, or just to take a metaphorical trip back to the ‘90s in general, “Kid 90” is definitely worth the watch.