The director of WAYNE'S WORLD and THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES strikes again with an unsatisfactory feature treatment of beloved characters from the world of television. Penelope Spheeris's THE LITTLE RASCALS is long on cutesiness and contrivance but short on charm and inspiration.
Spanky (Travis Tedford), Porky (Zachary Mabry), Stymie (Kevin Jamal Woods), Buckwheat (Ross Elliot Bagley), Froggy (Jordan Warkol), and Uh-Huh (Courtland Mead) all belong to The He-Man Woman Haters Club. A shack serves as clubhouse for this single-sex organization; their most prized possession
is the fabled go-kart, The Blur, which is coveted by neighborhood bullies Butch (Sam Saletta) and Woim (Blake Jeremy Collins). Noting the absence of their champion driver, Alfalfa (Bug Hall), the rascals are disgusted to find him singing his love to Darla (Brittany Ashton Holmes). When Alfalfa
furtively arranges a romantic lunch in the clubhouse, Spanky masterminds its sabotage, and Darla angrily marches off when her beloved fails to acknowledge their relationship. Alfalfa accidentally burns down the shack, and he's sentenced to renouncing Darla forever and guarding The Blur. Darla
takes up with Waldo (Blake McIver Ewing), a conceited rich kid with whom she intends to sing a duet at the upcoming talent show. The kids try a series of schemes to raise money for a new clubhouse, even applying for a loan from a banker, Mr. Welling (Mel Brooks).
Pursued by Butch and Woim, Alfalfa and Spanky find themselves disguised in tutus at Darla's ballet recital, which they disrupt with their antics. Alfalfa learns that it was Spanky who undermined his relationship with Darla. He heads to the talent show to woo her with song but ends up spewing
bubbles after drinking water adulterated by Waldo. When Alfalfa and Spanky discover that the bullies have nabbed The Blur to compete in the big race, the boys sort out their differences and build a new go-kart. At the race, they must face not only Butch and Woim in The Blur but also Waldo and
Darla in a relatively high-tech vehicle. Due to misplaced road signs and various shenanigans, the race is a free-for-all. Waldo and Darla have a falling out, and Alfalfa and Spanky are amazed when Waldo helps them to cope with the bullies' dirty tricks. The heroes manage to win the race and are
surprised to discover that Waldo's vehicle was driven by Darla. Spanky must further reconsider his opinion of females upon learning that his racing idol, A.J. Ferguson, is actually a woman (Reba McEntire). The gang uses the prize money to rebuild their clubhouse, which will henceforth admit girls.
The original "Our Gang" comedies were produced by Hal Roach from 1922 to 1938 and by MGM from 1939 to 1944; while the series was perennially popular in movie theaters, it achieved greater fame as a TV staple under the name "The Little Rascals" (MGM retained ownership of the original title). THE
LITTLE RASCALS, however, altogether lacks the loopy charm that characterized the original. In an attempt to reach a wide audience, the filmmakers have seasoned the juvenile slapstick with numerous cameos and bits of "adult" humor for grown-ups. The cameos disappoint: Mel Brooks and George Wendt
are wasted; Daryl Hannah barely registers as Miss Crabtree; Donald Trump and Whoopi Goldberg elicit groans as the parents of Waldo and Buckwheat, respectively. Otherwise, adults must settle for hoary puns and the dubious comic spectacle of little boys in drag or semi-nude. ("Are you a fairy?" a
little girl asks innocently.)
Not surprisingly, the more offensive aspects of the original films have been finessed or excised. Set in a generically pristine modern-day suburb, THE LITTLE RASCALS neatly sidesteps issues of class and race--indeed, with hardly any modification to their formerly stereotypical hairdos, Stymie
and Buckwheat now look downright stylish--and the nod to gender equality is forced and unpersuasive. The young performers, whose ages vary considerably, are exceedingly cute but mostly uninteresting. The one talent that bears watching is Bug Hall, whose savvy recreation of Alfalfa is a delight.
Otherwise, these attractive ciphers will not displace the memory of their predecessors.
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1994
- Rating: PG
- Review: The director of WAYNE'S WORLD and THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES strikes again with an unsatisfactory feature treatment of beloved characters from the world of television. Penelope Spheeris's THE LITTLE RASCALS is long on cutesiness and contrivance but short on c… (more)