This week, the oddest DVD to appear on release lists is:
“The Little Rascals Save the Day”
In the 1920s, Hollywood producer Hal Roach introduced movie goers to a ragtag band of kids – dubbed “Our Gang” or “Little Rascals” – that featured such memorable tykes as Spanky, Alfalfa, Darla, Buckwheat, Porky, Stymie and Petey the dog, who perfectly embodied the spunk, mischief and innocence of childhood in that era. So the question posed by “The Little Rascals Save the Day” (due out on DVD Tuesday) is whether those cute little relics of another time will still ring true with youngsters of today.
The “Rascals” franchise had another reboot in 1994 with a lame, too-cute-for-its-own-good update by director Penelope Spheeris, and now a direct-to-video version gives it another try. “Save the Day” features a troupe of cute kid actors in the iconic roles (along with hissable bullies Butch and Waldo) as they cook up schemes to raise $10,000 to help Grandma (Doris Roberts) save her faltering bakery.
Their botched money-making schemes are straight out of the Roach playbook – a pet washing business in which they turn every customer’s doggie green; a willy-nilly kids taxi service that goes haywire, etc. Finally, the hit upon a plan to get the money by winning a local talent show – only they have to compete with the insufferable Waldo for the prize.
It’s all pretty harmless and innocent – and dated – stuff. Who knows if today’s kids will buy into such ragamuffin whimsy? But a saving grace for adult chaperones comes in several knowing nods to the originals. A scene in which the Rascals play hooky from school only to miss a great class party pays homage to similar skits from original episodes. And affectionate nods are offered to the source material when a background theater marquee features a Hal Roach Film Festival and the MC of the talent show turns out to be named Leo McCarey (the name of the wonderful director who worked on so many of the original “Our Gang” shorts).
“The Little Rascals Save the Day” is rated PG and runs 98 minutes. It’s being released by Universal Studios.
- Dennis King