The Little Rascals (film)
|The Little Rascals|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Penelope Spheeris|
|Produced by||Bill Oakes|
Gerald R. Molen
|Screenplay by||Paul Guay|
|Story by||Paul Guay|
|Based on||Our Gang|
by Hal Roach
|Music by||William Ross|
|Edited by||Ross Albert|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$67.3 million|
The Little Rascals is a 1994 American family comedy film produced by Amblin Entertainment, and released by Universal Pictures on August 5, 1994. The film is an adaptation of Hal Roach's Our Gang, a series of short films of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s (many of which were broadcast on television as The Little Rascals) which centered on the adventures of a group of neighborhood children. The film, with a screenplay by Paul Guay, Stephen Mazur, and Penelope Spheeris – who also directed – presents several of the Our Gang characters in an updated setting, and features re-interpretations of several of the original shorts. It is the first collaboration by Guay and Mazur, whose subsequent comedies were Liar Liar and Heartbreakers.
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Spanky McFarland is the president of the "He-Man Woman Haters Club" with many school-aged boys from around the neighborhood as members. Alfalfa Switzer, Spanky's best friend, has been chosen to be the driver for the club's prize-winning go-kart, "The Blur", in the upcoming Soap Box Derby go-kart race. However, Alfalfa is nowhere to be found.
The boys go to find Alfalfa and discover him in the company of his sweetheart Darla, with whom he is forbidden to be in love because she is a girl, which goes against club rules. Alfalfa invites Darla on a picnic, and to prove his devotion to her, he agrees to have the picnic inside the clubhouse. Unbeknownst to Alfalfa, his fellow club members find out about his plans.
At the picnic, Alfalfa and Darla think they are alone, but the other club members secretly pull several silly pranks to sabotage their romantic date. When they finally reveal themselves and demand to come inside the clubhouse, Alfalfa frantically tries to convince Darla to hide in the closet, which leads her to mistakenly believe that Alfalfa feels ashamed of her. In the frenzy, a candle flame gets out of control, ultimately causing the clubhouse to burn down.
Darla breaks up with Alfalfa and turns her attentions towards Waldo, the new kid in town whose father is an oil tycoon. Because Alfalfa burned down the clubhouse and also fraternized with a girl, he is assigned by Stymie to guard the go-kart until the day of the race and refrain from even thinking about Darla.
Alfalfa makes several attempts to win back Darla, including sending her a fake love note. When that fails, Spanky goes with him to formally break things off with Darla. They are initially denied entrance to her ballet recital, but Spanky insists that they will wait for Darla to come out; Spanky gives Alfalfa a frog to play with while they wait. They are soon spotted by the neighborhood bullies, Butch and Woim, who chase them inside the building. To escape, Spanky and Alfalfa duck into a costume room and disguise themselves as ballerinas in pink tights, tutus, and wigs. They manage to evade the bullies, but they attempt to enter another room to get out of their disguises. They are surprised to find the room filled with girls, including Darla. The boys nervously pretend to be in the recital that is about to take place, but Alfalfa almost gives them away when the frog he is still holding croaks. Darla admits that she doesn't miss him, but does miss his voice. Just as they are about to back out of the room, the ballet mistress enters and ushers them all on stage.
The recital begins, as the children are performing scenes from "The Nutcracker." Alfalfa hands the frog to Spanky, but Spanky drops the frog into the waistband of Alfalfa's tights. Alfalfa squirms in discomfort as the frog wriggles around in his tights, turning the show to chaos as he tries to catch it while still dancing along. The girls break out into laughter, along with the audience. The recital ends, and the boys run off stage and Alfalfa quickly ducks behind a curtain and strips out of his disguise in order to get the frog out.
The ballet mistress, furious that the boys ruined her recital, confronts them and throws them out immediately, Alfalfa in his underwear and Spanky still in drag. Butch and Woim are waiting for them outside the door, so Spanky distracts them while Alfalfa sneaks out. When Spanky loses his wig, the bullies give chase. Spanky manages to lose them, but they bump into Alfalfa, who is trying to run home in his underwear. Butch and Woim chase Alfalfa into a mansion, but are turned away by the maid. Escaping through the back door, Alfalfa is chased by Waldo's Doberman, and he leaps into a pool and swims to the other side. As he climbs out, he notices his underwear floating on the surface of the pool. As Alfalfa retrieves his underwear, he discovers Darla and Waldo in a hot tub, laughing at him, to his embarrassment.
At the carnival talent show the day before the race, the boys try to fund-raise $450, the cost of the lumber needed to rebuild their clubhouse. The youngest club members, Buckwheat and Porky, have unwittingly come up with $500, not realizing that their method for earning the money was not exactly honest. Their school teacher, Miss Crabtree, finds out about the scheme and confronts Spanky, but he convinces her to donate the money to be given as first prize in the go-kart derby.
Alfalfa, trying to get Darla off his mind, finds the prank list and realizes that Spanky and the other boys sabotaged his picnic with Darla. He drives "The Blur" to the talent show to confront him, but when he sees Darla singing on stage with Waldo, he once again tries to win her back, this time through song, being that Darla mentioned after she dumped him that the only thing she ever really missed about him was his singing voice. However, Waldo sabotages his attempts to serenade her by putting soap in his drinking water, causing him to burp out bubbles all throughout his song.
As a result of Alfalfa's carelessness, "The Blur" is eventually stolen by Butch and Woim. Alfalfa and Spanky have a falling out, but at Stymie's urging, they reconcile and band together with the other boys to build "Blur 2: The Sequel". Alfalfa and Spanky decide to ride in the two-seat go-kart together. They hope to win the prize money and the trophy, which is to be presented to the winners by A.J. Ferguson, Spanky's favorite driver.
Butch and Woim make several sneaky attempts to stop Alfalfa and Spanky from winning the race. Waldo and Darla are also in the race, but they are eventually annoyed with each other, and Waldo seemingly kicks Darla out from his car. In a wild dash to the finish, and despite the many scrapes and crashes throughout the race, "The Blur 2" crosses the finish line ahead of the pack in a photo-finish between "The Blur" and "The Blur 2" literally by a hair, due to Alfalfa's pointy hairstyle. After the race, Butch and Woim, angry about losing, they attempt to beat up Alfalfa, but he finally stands up for himself and punches Butch in the face, knocking him into a pool of pig slop. Woim, scared, jumps into the slop willingly.
Along with first prize, Alfalfa also wins back Darla, after it is revealed that it had been Darla who had kicked Waldo out of their car and finished the race alone because she found out that Waldo was responsible for the bubbles at the talent show. Meanwhile, Spanky is shocked at the trophy presentation when he finally meets A.J. Ferguson, who turns out to be a woman. Spanky confesses to Darla that he and the boys were responsible for ruining their picnic lunch. After the club house is rebuilt, the boys collectively have a change of heart towards membership and they decide to welcome Darla and her friends as well as other girls into the club.
- Travis Tedford as "Spanky" McFarland, the president of "He-Man Women Hater's Club" and Alfalfa's best friend
- Bug Hall as "Alfalfa" Switzer, Spanky's best friend and Darla's boyfriend
- Brittany Ashton Holmes as Darla, Alfalfa's girlfriend
- Kevin Jamal Woods as "Stymie", the club's vice-president
- Jordan Warkol (voice dubbed by E. G. Daily) as "Froggy", a club member with a croaking voice and a love for amphibians
- Zachary Mabry as "Porky", one of the younger members of the club and Buckwheat's best friend
- Ross Bagley as "Buckwheat", another one of the younger members of the club and Porky's best friend
- Sam Saletta as "Butch", the neighborhood bully
- Blake Jeremy Collins as "Woim", Butch's friend and sidekick
- Blake McIver Ewing as Waldo Johnston III, an obnoxious rich new kid who is very interested in Darla
- Courtland Mead as "Uh-huh" – club "typographer", always answers "uh-huh"
- Juliette Brewer as Mary Ann
- Heather Karasek as Jane
- Raven-Symoné as Stymie's girlfriend at the club
- Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen as the twin girls at Darla's sleepover
- Mel Brooks as Mr. Welling, the stingy bank teller
- Lea Thompson as Miss Roberts, Darla's ballet instructor
- Daryl Hannah as Miss Crabtree, the gang's schoolteacher
- Reba McEntire as A.J. Ferguson, "the best driver there is"
- Whoopi Goldberg as Buckwheat's mother
- Donald Trump as Waldo Johnston II, Waldo's father
- Eric Edwards as Spanky's father
- Dan Carton as Alfalfa's father
- George Wendt as Lumber store guy
- Alexandra Monroe King and Zoe Oakes as Darla's friends at Darla's sleepover
- Petey, an American Bulldog
- Fifi, a Doberman Pinscher
- Elmer, a white throated white Capuchin monkey and part of the Rascal's club.
Bill Thomas, Jr., son of the late Bill Thomas, who played the original Buckwheat, contacted the studio and was invited down to visit the set, but got the impression that the filmmakers did not want him or any of the surviving original cast members involved in any production capacity. The surviving cast members saw this as especially hurtful, in light of the fact that director Penelope Spheeris had previously made a point of including Buddy Ebsen, from the original Beverly Hillbillies, in her 1993 feature film adaptation of that series. Eugene Jackson, who played the original Pineapple from the silent Our Gang comedies, tried unsuccessfully to contact the studio to be a part of production, stated, "It's real cold. They have no respect for the old-timers. At least they could have recognized some of the living legends surviving from the first films." Filming took place from January 11, 1994 to April 6, 1994.
The film received mixed to negative reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 23% based on reviews from 13 critics, although it has an audience rating of 70% as of April 2020. On Metacritic it has a score of 45 out of 100 based on reviews from 20 critics. Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "A-" on scale of A to F.
Brian Lowry of Variety magazine wrote: "Those who grew up watching The Little Rascals may well be intrigued by the idea of introducing their kids to this full-color, bigscreen version. Still, the challenge of stretching those mildly diverting shorts to feature length remains formidable, and one has to wonder whether an audience exists beyond nostalgic parents and their young children."
- Dishonorable mention – Glenn Lovell, San Jose Mercury News
- Dishonorable mention – Dan Craft, The Pantagraph
Repurposed scenes and situations
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Many of the gags and subplots in the film were borrowed from the original Our Gang/Little Rascals shorts. These include:
- The scene in which Buckwheat and Porky are fishing and get their fishing lines tangled originates from a scene in the 1943 Our Gang short Three Smart Guys with Buckwheat, Froggy, and Mickey.
- The He-Man Woman Haters Club originally appeared in the 1937 Our Gang short Hearts are Thumps; the club would return in the short Mail and Female the same year. The plots for both shorts were reused for the film. In addition, the scene where the gang ruins Alfalfa and Darla's lunch date, as well as the scene where bubbles come out of Alfalfa's mouth while he sings, were borrowed gags from Hearts are Thumps. Alfalfa sending Buckwheat and Porky to deliver a love note to Darla was borrowed from Mail and Female.
- The "hi-sign" originally appeared in the 1935 Our Gang short Anniversary Trouble, and the animated 1979 special, The Little Rascals Christmas Special.
- Alfalfa faking a toothache comes from the Academy Award-winning Our Gang short Bored of Education (1936).
- The children dressing up as fire fighters and attempting to put out a fire appeared in the Our Gang shorts Fire Fighters (1922), The Fourth Alarm (1926), and Hook and Ladder (1932). The gag in which Spanky (Travis Tedford) winds up on a flying water hose was originally used with Farina in The Fourth Alarm.
- The gag involving Spanky and Stymie disguising as adults appeared in a handful of Our Gang shorts. Mickey Daniels and Johnny Downs attempted to dress up as Santa Claus with this gag in the 1926 short Good Cheer. Farina and Pleurisy tried this routine in the 1929 short Election Day. Stymie and Dickie Moore tried it in the 1933 short Fish Hooky, while Spanky and Alfalfa tried pulling it off in both the 1935 short Teacher's Beau and the 1936 short Two Too Young.
- The scene in which Spanky and Alfalfa accidentally find themselves performing in a ballet recital was inspired by the plot of the 1937 short Rushin' Ballet. The costumes that the duo wear are exact replicas of the costumes that the original Spanky and Alfalfa wore in Rushin' Ballet. The gag in which Alfalfa gets a frog loose in his clothes was originally used in the 1937 short Framing Youth, where Spanky was trying to convince him he had a frog in his throat.
- Alfalfa singing "The Barber of Seville" originated in Our Gang Follies of 1938.
- The idea of the children building their own vehicle out of junk and scrap metal had been used in several Our Gang shorts, most notably the 1934 short Hi'-Neighbor!. The gag in which the kids' car causes several adults to leap into the air was also borrowed from Hi'-Neighbor!, and also appears in One Wild Ride (1925), Free Wheeling (1932), and Divot Diggers (1936).
- Much of the Go-Cart race climax (including the gag in which the car belonging to Butch and Woim accidentally goes into reverse) was borrowed from the 1939 short Auto Antics. Material from Hi'-Neighbor and Three Men in a Tub (1938) is also present.
The Little Rascals was released on VHS and DVD in 1995 and 2004 respectively. It made its Blu-Ray debut in 2014.
- "The Little Rascals". www.tcm.com. Retrieved 2020-12-06.
- Spiller, Nancy (August 6, 1994). "Not All 'Our Gang's' Here". Los Angeles Times.
- The Little Rascals at Rotten Tomatoes
- "The Little Rascals". Metacritic.
- "LITTLE RASCALS, THE (1994) A-". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
- Lowry, Brian (5 August 1994). "The Little Rascals". Variety.
- Fox, David J. (1994-08-08). "A 'Clear' Triumph at Box Office : Movies: The Harrison Ford thriller seizes the No. 1 spot with estimated ticket receipts of more than $20 million". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-06.
- Welkos, Robert W. (1994-08-16). "Weekend Box Office". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-11.
- Lovell, Glenn (December 25, 1994). "The Past Picture Show the Good, the Bad and the Ugly -- a Year Worth's of Movie Memories". San Jose Mercury News (Morning Final ed.). p. 3.
- Craft, Dan (December 30, 1994). "Success, Failure and a Lot of In-between; Movies '94". The Pantagraph. p. B1.
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