The Little Rascals

1994, PG, 82 min. Directed by Penelope Spheeris. Starring Travis Tedford, Bug Hall, Brittany Ashton Holmes, Kevin Jamal Woods, Zachary Mabry, Blake McIver Ewing, Whoopi Goldberg.

REVIEWED By Robert Faires, Fri., Aug. 19, 1994

Kids will be kids. And that's the refreshing news about the Nineties version of Hollywood's original Brat Pack; the kids are basically the same as the ones Hal Roach trotted before the cameras in movie short after short starting 70 years ago. Sure, the faces are different, but the attitude, the spirit, the sense of fun are the same. Our gang of heroes still have a clubhouse, still race go-carts, still think girls are icky. Spanky is still the brains of the outfit. Alfalfa still warbles like a wounded Weimaraner pup. Best of all, the Rascals still sparkle with spunk and ingenuity. Given Hollywood's gift for screwing up updates of old films (Anybody recall the 1976 King Kong?), it would have been par for them to make the Nineties Rascals microchip whiz kids and gameboys. But -- yea! -- they're still low-tech scamps, crafting a go-cart from a washing machine and old crates and a defense system that pelts thieves with pickles. It preserves that part of the Rascals' appeal that lies in their ragtag nature; they're mutts, like their dog Petey, beating the bullies and rich snobs with their street smarts and will. The new kids are plenty appealing -- especially the three Texans: Travis Tedford (Spanky), Bug Hall (Alfalfa), and Kevin Jamal Woods (Stymie) -- and none are the polished kid pros you might expect (excepting Blake McIver Ewing, who is deliciously supercilious as rich kid Waldo). Which means we get that same funny kind of good/bad kid acting that always worked for the originals. We also get the same kind of humor, which was never the sharp satire of Swift. If pungent ever applied to a Rascals escapade, it was for a bit in which someone broke wind. The tradition of fart jokes continues here -- though not to the degree I'd expected, and even Disney's doin' gas gags in The Lion King -- and there are bits with boys in drag, kids losing their shorts (literally), etc. But, hey, this is a kids' movie and ought to work on a kid's level. Besides, adults can enjoy the way these youngsters spout grown-up chatter and all ages can delight in the old-fashioned slapstick. I won't claim this film's great, but it is fun, and remarkably innocent and playful. I have more and more respect for director Spheeris (Beverly Hillbillies, Wayne's World), not because she makes incredible movies, but because she takes the shlockiest of Tinseltown's ideas for films and finds ways to have fun with them. Way to go, Penelope. The kids are alright.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

The Little Rascals, Penelope Spheeris, Travis Tedford, Bug Hall, Brittany Ashton Holmes, Kevin Jamal Woods, Zachary Mabry, Blake McIver Ewing, Whoopi Goldberg

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