Supposedly the French make the best movies about children, but Canada must run a close second. In the case of THE CHALLENGERS, done for CBC TV in 1991 (and bowing on US home video in 1994), a formulaic kidpic plot gets a boost from disarming young performers and bright dialogue.
Eleven-year-old Mackie Daniels (Gena Zamprogna) and her widowed mom are recent arrivals in a seaside community, where Mackie's sense of alienation is compounded by the taunts of the Challengers, a cocky neighborhood gang with their own cool clubhouse, mountain bikes, rock band, and strict
no-girls-allowed policy. A musician, Mackie knows her drumming can help the Challengers ace an upcoming talent contest, so she disguises herself as fictitious male cousin "Mac" to get past the boys-only rule. Mackie/Mac wins acceptance and friendship among the lads, even though she constantly has
to find excuses not to go swimming with them. The double life becomes too much when both Mac and Mackie are both booked in the talent contest, and Mackie reveals her ruse and runs away. After some soul-searching the Challengers accept her as she is.
It sounds unpromising in outline, but the filmmakers have that rare knack of knowing how adolescent characters might credibly talk and behave, even in such contrived circumstances. There's also some psychological depth; Mackie's masquerade is actually a way of coping with her father's early
death. While parents pass away so frequently in kiddie films that it's almost a bad joke, Clive Endersby's script evokes real pain over this point, not just knee-jerk pathos. Finally, THE CHALLENGERS is genuinely entertaining, with enough wit to keep grownups amused, especially in a running gag of
two Challenger roughnecks who turn every possible disagreement into a chance to continue their never-ending wrestling match.
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- Released: 1991
- Rating: NR
- Review: Supposedly the French make the best movies about children, but Canada must run a close second. In the case of THE CHALLENGERS, done for CBC TV in 1991 (and bowing on US home video in 1994), a formulaic kidpic plot gets a boost from disarming young performe… (more)