Back in 1994, 'The Little Rascals' was released as part of a nostalgic movie trend for the time. This was based on a show called 'Our Gang'; a series of short films that ran between the 1920s to 1940s. When aired on television in 1955, the name was changed to 'The Little Rascals', and stories involved a gang of kids and their neighbourhood adventures. It was pure, childhood innocence, and the '94 film was something I felt captured the spirit of it all to deliver to my generation (and younger).
As the film opens, we are introduced one by one to the gang. While us kids were pretty new to this gang, I can still remember my parents getting a kick out of these new versions of old characters they could remember from their own childhoods. Leading the gang is Spanky (Travis Tedford), and things play on the old boy's clubhouse tradition of "no girls allowed" with the "He-Man Woman Haters Club". Now, before we get too crazy here, we need to bear a few things in mind. One, this was what boys being boys was back then - girls had "cooties", and they didn't think much of us either. Second, the name of this club is a setup for a payoff later on, as the film's basic lesson (spoiler alert) is that men and women can be equals. And finally, this is all directed by a woman named Penelope Spheeris.
Anyway, Spanky arranges a meeting in which the gang is to find out who is going to drive for them in the upcoming Soap Box Derby go-kart race. The driver ends up being Alfalfa (Bug Hall), but he's not even in the meeting. Instead, he's off with a girl he's smitten for named Darla (Brittany Ashton Holmes), and trying to win her over. The gang catches him, and to them, liking girls is forbidden. They are further upset by Alfalfa inviting her to their clubhouse for a picnic lunch. The gang soon ends up pulling some pranks on the pair, and eventually Darla becomes sick of Alfalfa. So what's she do? Crash the go-kart through the clubhouse wall and start a fire, which subsequently demolishes the clubhouse. Alfalfa gets punished by the gang, ordered to stay and guard the go-kart day and night, while Darla runs off with some rich kid named Waldo (Blake McIver Ewing).
The film's main story is the balance between Alfalfa trying to win Darla back, and the rest of the gang trying to raise money to repair their clubhouse. So things are really very basic here, and it makes for a nice little slice of life movie for the youngins. 'The Little Rascals' concept seems to be something that kind of went out with this movie though, so I'm not altogether sure how present-day kids would enjoy it. It can be nostalgic in a way, but once again, there's a lot of cringe that comes with it too. Unfortunately, I see it as one of those movies that's a little stuck in its time. But being what it is, it still has a lot of that childhood charm to it, and it still made me laugh at a few odd parts.
The stars of this show, in my opinion, are definitely Buckwheat (Ross Bagley) and Porky (Zachary Mabry). If anyone remembers anything at all from this movie, it's probably Buckwheat's pickle song (aka "I've got two pickles"). These two play pretty well off each other, and you get the air of them being pals in real life; at least during filming. The bit that gets me, as corny as it is, is Buckwheat asking Porky for the number for 911. It's a really old and lame joke, but the way they deliver it cracks me up. I think it's them and the rest of the gang who really make this movie worth watching as opposed to any of the film's lead characters. Along with that, you have a few good celeb cameos pup up like Lea Thompson, Mel Brooks, Whoopi Goldberg, Reba McEntire, George Wendt and yes, even Donald Trump as the rich kid's Dad
Over on Rotten Tomatoes, this is one of the more fascinating titles one can see. While a tiny handful of critics have it held back at a lousy 23%, an audience of 100,000+ gives it a generous 70%. This is a movie that can certainly hold its own. From my perspective, I think it's pretty simple. This is a movie that's totally aimed at kids, especially for its time, and it's not something that really needs to be read into that much. They did a good job at capturing the spirit of 'Our Gang', it has some funny moments despite how cheesy it can be, and I daresay the message it has about it by the end is something that's still pretty damn relevant. It's surprising, but f I'm being honest, I think this movie could act as a good way to show your 6-year-old what equality is all about.