Fans of '90s-era celebrities as well as the classic family show Punky Brewster will find this behind-the-scenes walk down memory lane intriguing. But they may be surprised by the downbeat and sincere tone of this personal history. The home videos that director-star Soleil Moon Frye pieces together in Kid 90 provide completely original and private footage of a range of stars from the 1990s, some of whom are no longer alive. Current-day interviews with Moon Frye and others punctuate the videos, voicemail recordings, and excerpts from old diaries, allowing the protagonists to reflect on the events of the past but also on how they remembered them and how they feel about them now. Moon Frye notes that reviewing the footage for the first time in 20 years in order to make this movie was like a second "coming of age" for her. As a wildly famous child actor, Moon Frye says that carrying a camera around at all times in her teen years was a way of taking control. Others also talk about their own reckonings with childhood fame, and, curiously in a retrospective made possible only because someone was constantly filming, there's commentary about how much less scrutiny celebrity teens of the '90s were under in the pre-internet age.
The most striking aspect is the seemingly self destructive behavior of the then-teens, and the near absence of adults in the footage. Even as some of them were speaking out publicly about eschewing drugs and alcohol, they were consuming both heavily in private. Now adults, stars like actor David Arquette and rapper Danny Boy O'Connor talk frankly about barely surviving past drug abuse and hard living. Moon Frye confronts her own role in overlooking friends' serious problems, and the film is dedicated to a handful of young people who committed suicide before the '90s even ended. Others, like Leonardo DiCaprio (whose production house backed this documentary), went onto much bigger careers. We'll never know what footage we aren't seeing here, or information that hasn't been revealed (like the name of the person Moon Frye says raped her at 17) because, like any memoir, this is a personal take on history; it's just one that involves a lot of other well-known people, and it's interesting at the end to watch interviewees reacting to footage of their younger selves. For viewers of a certain age, this film may also offer insight into the act of remembering, and the pain and growth that can come with looking back.