Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Little Rascals (1994)

The Little Rascals is a strange film.

This modern-day take on Our Gang, featured in a total of 220 shorts and one movie between 1922 and 1944, blends old and new -- not necessarily with much success.

Spanky and the gang still still dress like they did during their heyday more than 60 years ago. They speak the same way too. This script includes everything from "dollface" and "you betcha" to "Don't that beat all?" and "nincampoop." Would present-day kids get that kind of talk?


The throwback references are pleasant to a 40-plus film fan like me who remembers watching the Our Gang shorts when I was a young guy in the 1970s. The clubhouse, soap box cars, theme music and Petey the dog were all welcome reminders of some good times parked in front of the living room television.

At the same time, there's plenty of gross-out references touching on everything from snot and poop to, strangely, sexual references. Seeing a young girl strut her stuff with a boy asking, "Got a burger to go with that shake?" is disturbing. An outtake at the film's end with two large soap bubbles popping in front of Darryl Hannah's breasts just feels kind of slimy for what's supposed to be a film for kids. There's a reference to cross-dressing when Spanky and Alfalfa end up in tutus to escape bad guy Butch. Heck, there's even a whoopee cushion.


Wikipedia has some interesting background about the film's background. It's based around three Our Gang shorts (Hearts are Thumps, Rushin' Ballet and Hi Neighbor). The plot can be summed up quite quickly. Alfalfa loves Darla. That puts him at odds with Spanky and the rest of the members of the He Man Woman Haters Club. Their clubhouse is destroyed. The gang needs cash to build a new meeting place. They enter a soap box derby to try and win the top prize of $500. Some of the other racers cheat.

There's plenty of celebrity cameos with everyone from Mel Brooks, Whoopi Goldberg, Reba McEntire, Ashley Olsen, Mary-Kate Olsen, Raven-Symone, Lea Thompson, Donald Trump and George Wendt making brief appearances. Some work. Some don't.

Director Penelope Spheeris helmed Wayne's World before guiding The Little Rascals. The earlier film is better.


Give these kids credit for delivering good performances at such young ages. But why stoop to references to sex and body functions for a film geared to the under-10 set? Stick with the originals.

Rating: 5/10

FUN FACTS: Most of the kids with the most screen time had short stints in Hollywood. The Little Rascals is the only credit for Zachary Mabry (Porky). Juliette Brewer (Mary Ann) appeared in three films with her last role in Vegas Vacation (Widescreen Edition) in 1997. Brittany Ashton Holmes (Darla) last appeared on screen in 1996. Bug Hall (Alfalfa) has the longest acting career with credits including CSI: Miami and The O.C.

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