There is some symmetry between yesterday’s review of Monster Hunter and today’s, Little Giants (1994), if only in the titles. The latter is a far superior movie, even though it was made over twenty-five years ago. No matter all the fancy computer generated image (CGI) beasts and heart thumping action, a film about a bunch of adolescents playing football is more entertaining.
Those of us who grew up with siblings know well the rivalry that can develop between them. Sometimes it is acrimonious, going on for years. In the case of Little Giants, while starting at childhood and lasting into adulthood, it is formed between the older and more athletic Kevin O’Shea (Ed O’Neill) and the younger and more bookish Danny O’Shea (Rick Moranis). Danny wants to play football with Kevin, but Kevin does not think his brother is capable. Though Kevin promises to always look out for his younger kin, he goes on to make a name for himself as a college athlete before coming back to their hometown of Urbania. Only his name appears on the water tower. As grown-ups, it is now time for Kevin to begin passing on his football knowledge to the next generation of kids in town. Among those hoping to join his peewee team is his niece Becky (Shawna Waldron), known more commonly as “Ice Box,” who is just at the cusp of when girls start to become young ladies. No matter how good she is at the sport, her uncle does not select her. Disappointed, she goes to her dad and sort of tricks Danny into forming his own team, collecting all the other kids in town usually rejected for sports. I am not going to go into all those gathered by Becky, but just know they each have their own quirks, and none of them are too athletic. All, that is, except for Junior Floyd (Devon Sawa), who becomes the team quarterback and the source of Becky’s affections. Still, Danny feels they do not have enough, and makes the team about him beating his brother instead of just giving the kids a chance to play. Thus he attempts to recruit the freakishly strong Spike Hammersmith (Sam Horrigan), making his dad, Mike (Brian Haley), believe that Danny is Kevin. When Kevin discovers this, he clears up the confusion by showing up at Danny’s practice and taking Spike. Kevin then follows up this act by further sabotaging Danny. Seeing Becky struggling with her crush on Junior, Kevin tells his niece that boys do not really like girls who can play sports like them. In order to make herself more attractive, she decides to become a cheerleader for the upcoming game between the two squads. The first half of the subsequent contest proves how overmatched is the title team and it appears to be headed towards a crushing defeat. However, a stirring speech from Danny, and a cheap shot delivered on Junior by Spike that brings the Ice Box onto the field, turns the entire game around. A trick play, laughingly called the Annexation of Puerto Rico, delivers a victory for the underdogs. It also proves to Kevin that Danny has a bit more ability than he previously thought, and they become true partners with one another.
The speech that Danny gives in the critical moment in Little Giants bears a little more analysis. The main theme in it is the idea that all it takes for a miracle to happen is that one time. He shares with them about how there was one instance when he was a kid of when he beat Kevin at a sport, and the rest of the kids go around the room sharing similar stories. It is amazing what a boost of confidence can do for a person. In my Faith journey, I have seen the briefest of moments where a person, both young and old, has felt God’s touch on their lives and it make all the difference in the world. Being a Christian is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. To be sure, there are certain things God expects us to do. But if you find yourself struggling with your relationship with God, the first thing I would tell you is to relax. Next, look for that one time where you feel God is speaking to your heart, and be patient with that too. When you feel that has come, build off it. Amazing and unexpected things can come from it.
Another aspect of Little Giants I would like to talk about from a Catholic perspective is the character of Becky O’Shea. There is a stereotype that in order to be a good female Catholic, a woman needs to be either a nun or a housewife. All Catholics, male or female, are called to choose some vocation, whether that be married or religious life. Through these roles, the hope is that we grow in our relationship with God, the goal of any Christian life. However, like I alluded to in the previous paragraph, that does not mean there is any one formula for everyone to follow. God creates each of us for a purpose, and it is up to us to pursue it. At the same time, it is not for anyone else to tell you what is that purpose. That is between you and God. Now, I am not advocating some kind of social free-for-all, or saying that Catholicism believes that any lifestyle is acceptable. It is just meant as a long way of saying that a girl playing football is not a sin.
If you have not seen Little Giants, I recommend sitting down the family this Christmas and checking it out. It is a warm, sweet movie without being schmaltzy, and has a little something for everyone. For those of you who are familiar with it, while it is a bit older, I feel it has held up pretty well over the years. Consider this an all around recommendation.