Imagine Spanky, Alfalfa and the rest of the Little Rascals waving guns, sucking down 40s of malt liquor and using language that would set Miss Crabtree's hair on fire: That's the unsettling tone Adam Davidson brings to his adaptation of Jess Mowry's award-winning 1994 novel about a group of seventh graders growing up too fast on the mean streets of Oakland. Pudgy Gordon (Jonathan Roger Neal), goofy twins Ric and Rac (D'andre and D'esmond Jenkin), sensitive rasta-boy Curtis (Partap Khalsa) and wise-beyond-his-years Lyon (Wes Charles Jr.) have grown up watching each other's backs in a neighborhood where walking to school can be a life-or-death adventure. On the first day of class, they're the targets of a drive-by shooting Gordon suspects was ordered by 16-year-old Deek (Wayne Collins), an ambitious drug dealer who's trying to recruit "The Friends," as the boys call themselves, to push dope. Gordon knows through the grapevine that baby-faced sociopath Deek has made the same offer to a rival group of kids, "The Crew," and suspects that Deek is trying to goad them into killing each other, eliminating potential competition. Deek never goes anywhere without his bodyguard, Ty (Terrance Williams), who just wants out; he doesn't have the stomach for murder and wants to get back together with his responsible junior-high sweetheart, Markita (Luchisha Evans), and keep his little brother, Danny (Kareem Woods), from repeating his mistakes. Gordon and The Crew's leader, Wesley (Dejuan D. Turrentine), decide to join forces to solve the Deek problem, and Danny tags along with his own agenda making sure that Ty doesn't get hurt. The shocker isn't so much that the film is about is 12-year-olds with handguns as it is that they can be such kids, laughing at Our Gang shorts on TV and worrying that mom will know they've been jumping on the couch. They're capable of plotting like military strategists to defend their turf, yet their story isn't so much about coming of age as trying not to. Gordon, Wesley and the others don't want to grow up and be like Deek. They know "you don't get to be 16 by being a fool," but they've seen enough of growing up to know they should hold onto the threads of childhood. Davidson's young cast is remarkable, engaging and guilelessly funny without being so cute that their calculated actions ring false.
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- Released: 2003
- Rating: R
- Review: Imagine Spanky, Alfalfa and the rest of the Little Rascals waving guns, sucking down 40s of malt liquor and using language that would set Miss Crabtree's hair on fire: That's the unsettling tone Adam Davidson brings to his adaptation of Jess Mowry's award-… (more)