"Despite the two dozen or so actors and musicians whose adolescent selves appear in the 72-minute film, Kid 90 is an autobiographical project that insists on missing the forest for the trees," says Inkoo Kang. "Building toward a lament for all the friends in the business who died prematurely and Frye’s resulting survivor’s guilt, the doc is conspicuously incurious about the systemic factors that may have contributed to their deaths, such as financial and familial pressure, addiction, sexual trauma and other mental health struggles." Kang adds: "The '90s witnessed an increasing professionalization of child stardom, especially with the spread of cable expanding both the number of roles for young actors and of shows for children and teenagers. Rather than provide an overview of this phenomenon, Frye grounds her point of view strictly within her social circles, which seem relatively tame. But it’s hard to get a sense of how these friendships were formed and how solid they were, given the likelihood that the young performers were frequently competing for the same roles at audition after audition. Nor is there much insight into the struggles of actors who didn’t enjoy the security and stability of a family like Frye’s, which also benefitted from a multigenerational familiarity with the industry. Later, Frye regrets that she didn’t see what she now interprets as her friends' cries for help. But the more interesting question is whether that inability or refusal to see the darkness around her ultimately helped Frye survive all these years. Kid 90’s account of child stardom during the Clinton years is further skewed by the unexplained disproportionate maleness of both Frye’s camera subjects and talking-head interviewees, which include (Mark-Paul) Gosselaar, (Seth) Green, Stephen Dorff, David Arquette and Balthazar Getty. (The lone woman among them is Heather McComb.) The absence of this cohort’s female members may explain why there are surprisingly few #MeToo-style revelations of sexual impropriety, though Frye shares her own experiences of sexual harassment and hypersexualization on set."
Kid 90 is an act of memory excavation and exposure: "It benefits from (Soleil Moon) Frye’s willingness to be an open book about not only those thorny topics, but just about every other facet of her upbringing, good and bad," says Nick Schager. "In forthright new interviews, she lays bare her complicated emotions as a teenager trying to maintain her stardom in a Hollywood that only saw her as a cute tyke and, afterwards, a buxom sex object." He adds: "In total, Frye comes across as a relatable girl who was alternately chaste and wild, confident and insecure, outgoing and private, and Kid 90 proves energized by her willingness to bluntly investigate her ’90s ups and downs. Featuring sightings of just about everyone who was anyone during that period—including Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Wahlberg, Charlie Sheen, C. Thomas Howell, Jonathan Silverman, and Dana Ashbrook—it’s an up-close-and-personal snapshot of a particular pop-culture moment, and of a community built by and for young stars to help them cope with the insanity of fame. Furthermore, it’s a record of an era in which kids were becoming comfortable having their day-to-day hijinks recorded 24/7, and yet didn’t have to fear that one wrong caught-on-camera move would lead to immediate internet scandal. In that regard, it’s not only a timeless document of youthful maturation, but a nostalgic look back at a world lost forever."
Kid 90 is too stuck on its lo-fi nostalgia to really delve into the subject matter: "If the unremarkableness of the moments captured in Moon Frye’s footage is refreshing, it also makes for a somewhat insipid film," says Devika Girish. "In interviews, Moon Frye hints at the darker aspects of young womanhood and celebrity that creep at the edges of her frame: sexual abuse, drug addiction, mental illness. But the director is too enamored of the pixelated, lo-fi nostalgia of her celluloid memories — and too intent on crafting a rose-tinted arc of 'self-love' — to dig deeper into these themes. The result is a film poised rather uncertainly between the personal and the cultural."
Even if Frye covers some painful territory, there’s something joyous about Kid 90: "While it’s true that, despite the inclusion of present-day interviews and vintage footage of fellow actors like Stephen Dorff and David Arquette, Kid 90 is really mostly about Frye, it’s not as self-absorbed as you might expect," says Stephanie Zacharek. "It’s more about the nature of memory itself, the kind of movie Chris Marker might have made if, instead of an experimental filmmaker and mixed-media artist, he’d been a former Hollywood child star. Kid 90 is really about looking back as we move forward, and learning to be O.K. with the kid we see in the rear-view mirror."