Ah the old cliched sports movie, a veritable treasure trove of…cliches. I mean what can I possibly say here that everyone doesn’t already know about? It doesn’t matter that this is a kids movie, in fact that makes it even worse for the cringeworthy cliches.
So the little all American town of Urbania (sounds like a small eastern European country) has a pee-wee football team called the Cowboys. Said team is coached by the local hero Kevin O’Shea (Ed O’Niell). After try outs for the team various useless kids are cut including local girl Becky who is daughter of Kevin’s brother Danny (Rick Moranis). Upset by being cut Becky convinces her dad to create another team for all the kids who didn’t make the grade for the Cowboys. Unfortunately this goes against the rules of one town, one team which is pointed out with much glee from Kevin. So Danny and his ragtag team of inept kids challenge Kevin and his well oiled machine of kids, to a playoff. Which team will represent the town Valkenvania…Castlevania…Transylvania…Urbania!!
Yeah so you should know what to expect here, we’ve seen this type of thing a million times in various movies for kids. The bumbling cack-handed kids of the Little Giants team are a stereotypical bunch. You’ve got the fat kid who’s funny because he’s fat, clearly very unfit and unhealthy…funny huh! The scrawny weedy kid who’s half the size of everyone else, wears glasses, has a basin haircut and is a mummy’s boy. The token black kid…who also can’t catch. The token Asian kid…who’s also mega fat and wears glasses. One kid who cries all the time, one kid who gets injured all the time, and of course the one good looking blonde kid who’s kinda good.
On the other hand the fitter and better trained kids of the Cowboys team are also a stereotypical bunch. Stereotypical in the sense that they all look pretty uniform in appearance from physique to haircuts. One team is an uncouth messy mishmash of nerds; the other a highly organised, well trained team of young jocks. Each teams coach also represents those stereotypes in the sense that Danny (Moranis) is more of a laid back, spectacle wearing academic type who wants the kids to just have fun. Where as Kevin (O’Niell) is more of a no nonsense coach with a slick haircut, fancy sports car and likes (has) to win big. Danny coaches his unruly Giants with creative methods that involve no funds. Kevin has his own assistant, the team have expensive proper kits and equipment, and they use pro training methods within proper facilities.
The movie certainly does seem to push the old negative stereotype that anyone who wears spectacles must be some sort of weedy nerd who is more academic than sporty. Vice versa it also pushes the daft stereotype that anyone who is sporty must be large, muscular and have a buzz cut. The thing is the movie never really addresses those stereotypes. I mean yeah sure the Giants win in the end (unsurprising spoiler alert!) and the Cowboys do recognise and applaud their opponents, but the stereotypes are still there, the movie doesn’t really attempt to rectify them.
Being a sports movie about American (pee-wee) football mixed with elements from ‘Home Alone’ does offer up some nice ideas, but its still a by the numbers movie really. Lots of silly training montages from both teams, lots of silliness from the kids, heartfelt moments from the adults yadda yadda yadda. There is a painfully slow car chase sequence in the movie which was so obviously staged I dunno why they kept it in. I do like Ed O’Niell but yet again he’s basically giving us Al Bundy with his performance, he seems completely unable to break away from that persona. Where as Rick Moranis just does what he’s always done really, play a spectacle wearing geek with a heart. As for the kid actors, well they do OK. They all do a good job in playing disgusting or wimpy nerds that’s for sure, they all looked their parts.
Obviously this movie is the typical underdog tale, unashamedly so, and that’s not a bad thing because it is supposed to be for young kids. And while the movie is a feel good flick which kids I’m sure will enjoy, I can’t help but feel the overall message is somewhat mixed (if you wear glasses you’re a nerd!). Its definitely a well made movie, very colourful, cheerful and chock full of cheekiness, just don’t expect anything original. But I think we all know and expect this.