When news first hit my inbox back in January (prompting me to post) that Universal was prepping to release a new Little Rascals film, my personal interest wasn’t really there. It had nothing to do with the original OUR GANG shorts that inspired it, nor the 1994 feature that preceded it. I just wasn’t into The Little Rascals much as a kid, my exposure limited to afternoon shorts that ran on WFLD Channel 32 (old UHF band!) here in Chicago during the early 1980s. In fact, if you’d like to see exactly what I was seeing back in 1982, take a look at this commercial break that aired during THE MONKEES, which I was probably watching at that very moment…
Did you catch that? At the 1:24 mark (just past that fantastic “pay TV” spot) was a commercial for the Channel 32 “Afternoon Fun” premiere of THE LITTLE RASCALS. I’d watch it occasionally, but it never grabbed me the way that Davy, Micky, Peter and Mike did. So what made me decide to sit down with my girls and watch 2014’s THE LITTLE RASCALS SAVE THE DAY? By a complete fluke, I found myself in Vancouver earlier this month, spending a few days on the set of JINGLE ALL THE WAY 2 (a Fox production) with Director Alex Zamm… who just happened to have helmed the new Little Rascals. What really struck me, and thus piqued my interest, was just how well Zamm handled working with one of the young stars of JINGLE ALL THE WAY 2. Witnessing that first-hand, I wanted to visit THE LITTLE RASCALS SAVE THE DAY to see the outcome of a film where there were many kids (and animals) under his direction.
I’m glad I did.
While the original OUR GANG shorts are held by some as being sacred, I don’t have enough familiarity with the source material to catch all the nods to those that have been worked in here (sans some obvious – like a Hal Roach Film Festival on a marquee), and I don’t think that the originals have any chance of capturing the attention of a new, young audience, and that’s exactly why this works. Knowing the basic gist and characters, the gang truly is all here, albeit in present day, though keeping their classic looks as if they’d stepped out of the OshKosh B’Gosh catalog.
There’s a warm, almost late afternoon glow that surrounds THE LITTLE RASCALS SAVE THE DAY, illuminating many locations that should be familiar to anyone who’s paid a visit to Universal Studios Hollywood in the past, as a lot of backlot shooting took place in bringing this film to the screen. The kids are good, as are the grownups, led by Doris Roberts (CHRISTMAS VACATION, DREAM ON) as “Grandma,” whose bakery needs saving. You see, the plot tends to delve into familiar territory (a place THE MUPPETS have often ventured) as Grandma is behind on her mortgage by $10K, and with the bank and a developer both hoping to swoop in for the kill, The Little Rascals take it upon themselves to enter a talent contest as a band in hopes of taking home the top prize – which of course, is an even ten grand. Score the prize, sign the oversized check over to Grandma, and cinnamon muffins for all. But getting to that point isn’t easy, and it all serves to set-up a series of events very much inspired by those old shorts, and that brings it all full circle.
With my oldest turning five this year, she’s just at the right age to really start latching onto the antics of The Little Rascals, and thus, watching her become captivated with the film was both heartwarming and concerning as a twinkle in her already mischievous eyes makes me wonder what fictional scenario is about to become a real-life mess to clean-up here at Rock Father HQ (hopefully none).
A perfect movie? No. A movie that kids and families can enjoy together? Absolutely.
THE LITTLE RASCALS SAVE THE DAY is one of 2014’s surprises thus far.
The Rock Father Rating: 3/5 Stars
THE LITTLE RASCALS SAVE THE DAY and classic OUR GANG are available via (my affiliate) Amazon: