It is perhaps improper to fault LITTLE HEROES, a no-frills coming-of-age tale which, despite its mediocre production values and generally weak performances, offers a low-key alternative to more elaborate, escapist fare.
Charlene (Raeanin Simpson) is 10 years old and budding into a pretty girl. She adores her best friend, Fuzz, an intelligent, loyal mutt. Fuzz waits for Charley at school, runs alongside when she substitutes on a friend's paper route, and romps with her across the bucolic but distressed landscape.
Her father, Virgil (Craig Clyde), is a farmer faltering in a cruel economy. Their spartan budget demands stressful sacrifices. Charley is ridiculed for her clothes by Carol Evans (Jessica Fesh), the insensitive leader of a middle-class girls' clique. She invites Charley to an after-school party,
but only to dupe her into being a servant. Charley yearns to belong and complies, but accidentally scalds a guest's hand with tea. Mrs. Evans (Reta Patterson), who we learn is an ex-farm-girl anxious to forget an impoverished youth much like Charley's, doesn't invite her in for a drink with the
others, but merely suggests she and her dog use the garden hose and then go home.
Charley hides her hurt and confusion from her unhappy parents who, insecure about status--the bourgeois town, their farm poverty--fight yet again over money. For $4, Charley covers the paper route of her friend Fritz (Lance Johnson) when he and his family take a week's vacation. Charley is not
particularly sensible or efficient, can't toss the papers or ride a boys' bigger bike, but she does her best. Coming home tired and hungry, she is instead sent to do her homework. Mom (Katherine Willis) and Dad have a another row about their finances and future. But it is Charley, with few friends
and less joy than she deserves, who worries Mom the most.
Charley, however, has a resilient spirit and Fuzz's unconditional love, which she rewards with baloney slices and plenty of attention. She even confides in Fuzz alone the hiding place of her secret money jar. When Carol, in a change of heart, invites Charley to her birthday party, Mom dips into
her own rainy day money to buy cloth for a dress. Its creation is a metaphor for the way in which life, for many families, is made of simple cloth, sturdy thread, diligence and all-important love. But Charley never gets to Carol's party. While buying lunch meat, she eagerly apprises the butcher
that she has been invited. She is overheard by the hypocritical Mrs. Evans, who humiliates Charley by retracting her daughter's invitation. (She had earlier derided the visit of Charley and Fuzz to Sunday services. "This is God's house, not Skid Row." But Charley is far from a ragamuffin, and the
scene rings false.) Charley cannot bear to tell her Mom and instead feigns delight with the new dress. She watches the party from a nearby hill and dispatches Fuzz to deliver a gift--a doll she bought with her paper-route money--when the children have left.
Dad's penurious ire is raised when Charley returns home in the new dress. She bolts from the house. When Dad finds her, he declines the money jar she offers. The kindly old neighbor Alonzo (Keith Christensen) commits a deed that soon leads to a moment of true pathos. Charley and Fuzz heroically
save Alonzo's life after a grave accident. Family and social unity are restored. During the search for the beloved Fuzz, it is Charley who finds him; the scene is almost certain to move anyone who has ever dearly loved a pet.
While at times mawkish--and grafted with incongruous camera moves in a pretension to expansive technique--LITTLE HEROES is ultimately redeemed by its simple passion for family values and virtuous living. Director Craig Clyde has elicited the natural talent and sweetness of Raeanin Simpson who,
especially in the climactic moment, transcends the film's flaws by evoking memories of loss and then triumph over childhood adversity.
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1991
- Rating: NR
- Review: It is perhaps improper to fault LITTLE HEROES, a no-frills coming-of-age tale which, despite its mediocre production values and generally weak performances, offers a low-key alternative to more elaborate, escapist fare. Charlene (Raeanin Simpson) is 10 y… (more)