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'Puzzle' is Well Made, but a Few Pieces are Missing

MOVIE REVIEW
Based on the film Rompecabezas, Puzzle is one of those little-known independent films that sneaks into theaters with little to no fanfare, although the fact that it is being promoted “from the producer of Little Miss Sunshine” should help it get noticed somewhat. Puzzle is a quiet, little film about a woman who discovers that jigsaw puzzles are the key to changing her life. While the subject matter doesn’t sound all that exciting, the film really isn’t about puzzles but instead about one finding their voice, or so it appears. It’s also a message film that has its own agenda expecting the audience to agree with the choices of the main character and applaud her “brave” behavior. Frankly, it just feels manipulative.

Directed by Marc Turtletaub, Puzzle’s most impactful scene comes within the first few minutes. We see Agnes (Kelly MacDonald) cleaning up the house and they decorating it for a birthday party. Then we see her serving appetizers while being ignored by the guests. …

Little Rascals for a New Generation

The "New" Little Rascals. Photo: Universal 1440 Entertainment

 MOVIE REVIEW 

The Little Rascals are back – sort of. The original Little Rascals movies were black and white shorts that played in theaters in the 1930’s. In 1994, Hollywood decided to do a revival of the series with a new movie simply titled, The Little Rascals. It was received with so-so results, possibly due to the fact that many of the intended audience had never heard of the series before. Ten years later, Universal Home Video is trying it again, with an “all new movie” but might end up with the same results as today’s children are no more familiar with the series than kids were a decade ago. However, children who do end up seeing the new flick will probably enjoy it a great deal.

The Little Rascals Save the Day isn’t a sequel, but it based on the characters of the original series. The new cast is spitting images of their predecessors, which are something that parents will appreciate. The odd thing with this movie is that the studio tried to make homage to the originals and try to make the story contemporary at the same time. So, here you have children dressed like they did in the 30’s with some of them looking completely out of place. Alfalfa wears a suit to school and Buckwheat still can’t find clothes that fit.

It makes one wonder why the movie wasn’t set in the 1930’s to begin with. The mashup of the two generations is odd. Here, Alfalfa rides a bike while rich Waldo drives a child-sized Hummer like his father. Alfalfa sings, “Beautiful Dreamer” in class while Waldo sings Tom Jones’ “She’s a Lady.” Later, the gang’s band tries a version of Sonny and Cher’s “I’ve Got You Babe.” However, the rest of the movie has the sensibilities of the original shorts.

In this story, the Rascals are in danger of losing their treehouse. It sits next to “Grandma’s” bakery which is $20,000 behind in making payments. If she can’t come up with the money, Waldo’s father will buy the lot and turn it into a mall and move the treehouse to his backyard for his son. Spanky leads the group into different money making schemes to help raise the money for Grandma including a pet cleaning business, a taxi service, a wrestling match and a talent show.

Like the originals, some of the actors are better than others and the storyline is geared toward children with a pint-sized view of the world. Though the kids make a mess of Grandma’s bakery, she just shakes her head and smiles. The schoolteacher thinks everything that the kids do is great but her boyfriend, the police officer, thinks that they are a bunch of troublemakers. 

Children will love the contraptions and inventions that the gang comes up with, but the super-sweet script will be a bit much for their parents. The film’s biggest star is Doris Roberts who plays Grandma and there is a brief cameo of Bug Hall who played Alfalfa in the ’94 film.

Overall, the movie has the charm of the original shorts and a nice lesson about how to be a leader without being bossy. It is rated PG – but except for the odd “She’s a Lady” song number - all content is perfectly safe for the kids.

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