As with his previous films Instinct (1999) and Phenomenon (1996), director John Turteltaub wraps an ingenuous message of self-help humanism in a gauzy-looking, high-concept package featuring a big star. Hot off a string of successful pictures, Bruce Willis gives a flat, less than persuasive performance as Russ Duritz, a modern-day Ebenezer Scrooge. Rather than the cruel, mean-spirited character he should have been, Willis portrays Russ as detached and unresponsive, an artistic choice that may be psychologically sound but results in a static narrative and renders the character's subsequent transformation unconvincing. As Rusty, the younger version of Russ, child-actor Spencer Breslin is far more effective, using his physique, voice, expressive face, and quirky mannerisms to bring his role to engaging life. Turteltaub wisely uses Breslin's comic abilities to the film's advantage, employing any excuse to have Breslin match wits with the film's cynical adults, ultimately creating a memorably funny star-turn that rescues a sickly sweet, predictable tale from the scrap heap of failed Capra-esque efforts.