Sidekicks is a 1992 action film directed by Aaron Norris and starring Jonathan Brandis and Chuck Norris.
Running time 101 minutes
Barry Gabrewski is a bullied asthmatic boy who lives with his widowed father, Jerry Gabrewski (Beau Bridges), in Houston, Texas. A loner, Barry has vivid daydreams about being Chuck Norris’ sidekick, battling against Norris’s movie enemies, who are often personified by Barry’s everyday bullies such as Randy Cellini (John Buchanan). Noreen Chan (Julia Nickson-Soul), his favorite teacher, often plays the damsel in distress in these daydreams.
Barry wants to learn the martial arts, but is rejected by the arrogant dojo owner Kelly Stone (Joe Piscopo) for being too weak. Instead, he is taken on as a student by an old Chinese man called Mr. Lee (Mako), Noreen’s sly uncle and the owner of a local Chinese restaurant, “Frying Dragon”. Mr. Lee finds creative ways to teach Barry to defend himself from his bullies. Lee devises training methods that increase Barry’s endurance, which helps his asthma. Lee also deduces Barry’s hero worship of Norris, and from that at least some of Barry’s daydreams. He creatively incorporates this into Barry’s training, creating training scenarios that seem more dangerous than they are so that Barry will feel heroic for succeeding at them.
Lee enters himself, Barry, and Chan into a local team Karate tournament but is a bit stymied to learn that a team must have four members. Norris is attending the tournament as a guest, and at Lee’s urging, Chan convinces Norris to join the team. Norris is both willing to help an ardent fan and has his own motivation for participating: he has encountered Stone on several prior occasions and wants to teach him “a lesson in humility”. Barry is stunned to find himself working together with his hero.
The tournament involves four events: Breaking, Men’s Weapons, Female Kata, and Freestyle fighting. Stone’s team narrowly defeats Chan in the Female Kata, but Lee defeats Cellini, one of Stone’s students, in Breaking. True to his word, Norris defeats Stone in Freestyle fighting, and Barry—aided by a vivid daydream—scores a victory in Men’s Weapons. The result is a tie between Stone’s team and Lee’s team. In the tie-breaker, Lee is allowed to choose the participants, and chooses Barry and Cellini, saying Barry is the member of the team with “something to prove”. Stone chooses the event, Breaking. Barry is dismayed to be confronting Cellini in the latter’s best event, but Lee tilts the odds in Barry’s favor by using a small amount of lighter fluid to set Barry’s bricks on fire. Faced with a much more heroic-seeming task, Barry wins.
After the tournament, Barry is seen talking to Norris, thanking him for his help. Norris vanishes, and it is implied that Barry has found the strength to live his life without the need for his daydreams. Before the movie fades to black, a young boy finds Barry’s Chuck Norris magazine. With an excited “Wow” the camera pans out to reveal the young man is in a wheelchair.
Jonathan Brandis as Barry Gabrewski
Chuck Norris as Himself
Beau Bridges as Jerry Gabrewski
Mako as Mr. Lee
Joe Piscopo as Kelly Stone
Danica McKellar as Lauren
Richard Moll as Horn
Julia Nickson-Soul as Ms. Noreen Chan
Michael and Paul Castillo as Twin Guards
The voice of Bear the dog
NOTE: Nickson-Soul’s character-name is an inside reference to Chuck Norris’s movie An Eye For an Eye, in which Mako portrayed James Chan (the father of a murdered journalist, who teams up with Norris’s character to hunt down her killers).
5602 Dorothy Ann St (Houston, Texas)
Lamar High School (Houston, Texas)
Wortham Theater Center
Texas Southern University
Westchester Junior High, Spring Branch (Demolished, 1994?) (Houston, Texas)
Sidekicks was filmed primarily in Houston, TX. It was the pet project of well-known Houston furniture outlet owner Jim “Mattress Mac” McIngvale, who (in partnership with Chuck Norris and his “Kick Drugs out of Schools” campaign) invested 8 million dollars in producing this movie. Chuck Norris, who had appeared in many local television commercials for McIngvale, suggested the idea of creating this film, and “Mac” agreed to finance and produce it. In McIngvale’s book, Always Think Big, he states going into film and producing was “extremely hard work”.
The film received largely negative reviews from critics. Based on 10 reviews gathered, the film has a 10% from Rotten Tomatoes, with an average score of 3.6/10.
The film debuted at No.2 at the box office. It grossed $17,180,393 during its domestic release.