In “The Golden Age of Hollywood,” film producer Hal Roach, was known for producing short films (before television existed) for comedy duo Laurel & Hardy and of course, “Our Gang.” The latter is about a group of poor mischievous children who embark on several misadventures ranging from building a go-kart, organizing an all-boys club, becoming firefighters to put out a fire without adult supervision among many other wacky shenanigans the group endures. Hal Roach was inspired to create the series upon witnessing a group of children playing with 2×4 equipment. Thus, Our Gang’s group known as “The Little Rascals” were conceived.
Notable characters were distinctive including Alfalfa, known for his one hair standing up, Spanky, the bossy leader of the titular group, Buckwheat (Eddie Murphy parodied Buckwheat on SNL) & Porky, two inseparable best friends, Stymie, Spanky’s “Vice President” of the club, Porky, known for his catchphrase “O-tay,” Darla, Alfalfa’s love interest which causes friction with his pals & last but not least, Petey The Dog, who literally has a circle around his eye.
With a grand total of 220 short films spanning from 1922-1944, The Little Rascals became a household name as a result of the child actors’ iconic performances, characteristics & personalities. Like “The Three Stooges” The Little Rascals’ legacy spanned many generations of viewers, which continues to grow for many decades. Despite a notable presence, some of their shorts remain controversial in recent years. Hear me out, back then, The Little Rascals’ golden years haven’t aged well due to racial segregation, black stereotypes & a so called curse of the actors who played the characters died in tragic circumstances. Out of respect for the child actors, I refuse to discuss the details about their untimely deaths and talk about the impact they made as icons. I have a soft spot for children. May they all Rest in Peace.
In The 90’s, Steven Spielberg’s production company “Amblin Entertainment” bought the film rights to make an adaptation of The Little Rascals set in modern times.
The Little Rascals was released in 1994. (same year The Lion King came out) It received negative reviews (except Roger Ebert) from critics. Despite labeled as a critical flop, it managed to make some money at the box office.
The following review contains very important SPOILERS. If you’ve never seen The Little Rascals or not familiar Our Gang, read at your own risk. Does it still hold up? Time to find out!
Pros & Cons
Pros: Steven Spielberg produced the film uncredited.
Steven’s collaborator Gerald R. Molen also produced the film.
Cinematography never suffered from camera problems. Thank goodness Woody Woodpecker wasn’t hired to hold the camera.
Practical Effects were used to orchestrate the gang’s shenanigan.
The main plot focuses on the gang trying to gain revenue after Alfalfa accidentally burned the club house.
The Go-Kart Race was arguably the best part of the whole movie. It becomes “Hilarious in Hindsight” (look up TV Tropes) when Universal Pictures produced “The Fast & Furious” franchise about racing, heists, friendship, romance, stunts among many other Tropes.
Waldo’s go-kart reminded me of Mach 5 from “Speed Racer.”
Unlike the original short films, the movie is set in modern times.
The film retains visual gags from previous short films.
Character Development involving Spanky & Alfalfa. They both learn to put aside their differences and become friends again.
Famous faces including Mel Brooks, Whoopi Goldberg, Daryl Hannah, Lea Thompson, Reba McEntire, George Wendt, (Norm from Cheers) Raven-Symoné, The Olsen Twins (before their popularity died in 2004) and say what you will, Donald Trump all make cameo appearances. President Trump plays Waldo’s father. No wonder his father turned the tables towards The Little Rascals by becoming President of The United States as retaliation for the gang defeating Waldo. Now it makes sense! The Little Rascals beating Waldo is the cause of Trump’s motivation to run for President!
Most scenes feature several characters using super speed, making it look like they are running like The Flash & Quicksilver. Only thing missing is Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle” playing in the background. You know that scene from “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”
Butch & Woim have an understandable motive. They are rejected by the club. In retaliation, they try to get back at the gang by stealing a go-kart.
Outtakes are shown during The End Credits.
Cons: Penelope Spheeris (Wayne’s World, Black Sheep) failed to double check the script, film additional takes to get the child actors release their potential and constructed a nonsensical plot.
I know they’re kids, but their acting chops are irritating. It must be hard to take a child actor seriously. Directing 101, if you want to improve kid’s ability to act, make sure you repeat the scene with several takes.
Alfalfa’s singing “You Are So Beautiful” to Darla is terrible. I know he’s trying, but every time I hear him sing, it’s as if he’s coming out of Sam Smith’s colon. I’ll let this con slide, because his friends cringed at his performance.
When Alfalfa & Spanky disguise themselves as ballot dancers, Darla & her friends ignored the fact her love interest his wearing a wig. Clark Kent’s glasses is more convincing than a wig.
A “we are through” cliche is used. I find it predictable in most romantic comedies & buddy cop films. We all know two people or more will make amends, put aside their differences & work as a team again. I always hate the we are through cliche.
The Final Verdict: C, FOR CONFOUNDED!
The Little Rascals is described in one word, “Meh.” As a kid, I liked this movie, when I got older and noticed some problems. I’m not saying it’s a masterpiece or a stinker, like I said, it’s “Meh.” If you want to introduce your kids to The Little Rascals, go ahead and encourage them.