In 'Kid 90,' Soleil Moon Frye opens a time capsule about being young and famous in the '90s

Turns out Soleil Moon Frye — TV’s “Punky Brewster” — meticulously documented her formative years, recently wading back through home movies, phone messages and photos and assembling them into “Kid 90,” a documentary that she calls “A true chronological blueprint of what it was to grow up as a teenager in the ’90s.” But Frye was a special teen — one with Zelig-like exposure to practically everyone else who was young and famous during those years.

Premiering on Hulu, the 70-some-odd-minute film really plays like a companion to another recent documentary, Alex Winter’s HBO film “Showbiz Kids,” presenting a nostalgic but troubling vision of what it was like to be a child star. As proof, the film ends with sobering snapshots of all the friends that Frye, now 44, lost along the way.
Cast in her NBC sitcom at age seven, Frye cites her own questions as to whether “things really happened the way I remembered them” as motivation for the project, enlisting other former kid actors — one wants to call them survivors — to share their recollections. The list includes Stephen Dorff, Brian Austin Green, David Arquette, Balthazar Getty, Mark-Paul Gosselaar and more.
    Most remarkably, Frye toted a video camera around before cellphones were ubiquitous, which makes this behind-the-velvet-ropes access all the more intoxicating. While Frye talks about having a reasonably normal childhood all things considered, Gosselaar recalls being told that once an actor walked onto a TV or movie set, kid or no kid, “You have to act like an adult.”
      There are plenty of memorable tidbits sprinkled throughout “Kid 90,” from Frye videotaping herself going for breast-reduction surgery as a teenager (after her rapid development made her the butt of cruel jokes) to video of her partying with pals — drinking Jagermeister straight from the bottle — quickly followed by footage of her delivering a pitch to “Just Say No” to drugs.
        Frye also opens up about a date-rape incident — before that term existed — and her later relationship with Charlie Sheen, who insists on referring to himself as “Charles” in the voicemail messages that she saved.
        For anyone who watched some of these shows in their heyday, “Kid 90” is like prying open a time capsule, filled with at least as many melancholy memories as joyful ones. Directed by Frye — who’s starring in a “Punky” revival on the streaming service Peacock — the documentary gives off the feel of wading through old yearbooks, while allowing the viewers to peer over Frye’s shoulder as she tries to sort out what it all meant.
            The destination, frankly, is probably less compelling than the journey. But Frye’s wide web of contacts offers a compelling window into not only her past, but the very specific cultural moment when it all unfolded.
            “Kid 90” premieres March 12 on Hulu.




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