A surprisingly pleasant family film and a nice homage to the original Little Rascals.
Finally, the editors of Influx Magazine have asked me to review a film that is right up my alley. This is because one of the many dubious distinctions I have as an insanely compulsive movie viewer is that I have seen perhaps EVERY Little Rascals short that is currently available. I say ‘currently available’ because quite a few of their early films have simply disappeared—decomposed like so many of the nitrate film stock films during the first half of the 20th century. It’s a shame, as the silent films in the series that exist today are among the very best of the series.
The Little Rascals were brought to the screen by Hal Roach Studios — the same folks who brought us Laurel & Hardy as well as quite a few other wonderful comedians, like Harold Lloyd and Charley Chase. Is this new version of The Little Rascals up to the same quality and spirit as the older, original films? Or, even as good as the pleasant re-boot they brought out in 1994? I sure hoped so when the film began!
This family film has a LOT of familiar elements if you are familiar with the old films. I appreciate this, as most folk who will watch this movie will have never seen the original films. So, they didn’t have to replicate the style and look of the old shorts. But SOMEONE associated with this film thought it was important to be faithful to the franchise—and I really appreciated that. A few examples of the old Little Rascals elements are when the boys tried to skip school and end up missing out on a party (I’ve seen this in two other Rascals films — one with an ice cream party and the other where the teacher took them to an amusement park — and the boys missed out on this because they played hooky), all the more familiar old characters from the franchise’s most familiar period (with Porky, Buckwheat, Darla, Alfalfa and Spanky — as well as villains like Butch and Waldo), Miss Crabtree, the kids’ taxi and much more. On top of that, the marquee at the theater, if you look carefully, refers to a Hal Roach Film Festival and the MC of the talent show is Leo McCarey! McCarey was a brilliant director who worked for Roach and directed many of the Rascals films (he later went on to become a top director of full-length films).
The plot involves Grandma (Doris Roberts) who about to lose her business. She needs $10,000 fast and the kids all decide to help her. However, the Rascals’ plans are all terrible and backfire badly—and it’s kind of cute seeing them turn everyone’s pets green (among other things). Eventually, as a last ditch, they decide to enter the kids talent show—and first prize is, of course, $10,000. Who will win—the Rascals or the insufferable Waldo? What do you think?!
I am sure that the film will appeal to kids and their parents (and grandparents), though I am not sure if it will appeal to teens. Teens will probably find it all a bit mushy and predictable…which is true. But it’s well-made mush! Plus, it’s nice to have a film that will appeal to parents and kids alike … so leave your picky teens at home and enjoy or lock them in their rooms if you decide to buy the video! Overall, this is a cute and surprisingly well-made and enjoyable family film — and a bit better than the 1994 film.
Review by Lead Entertainment Writer and Film Critic, Martin Hafer