The new peewee football comedy "Little Giants" is an uneasy cross between "The Bad News Bears" (with football instead of baseball) and "The Little Rascals." The film is generally innocuous, aiming for the kiddie audience, but despite a few amusing comic bits it relies far too heavily on easy, crude gags of the kind that involve flatulence or snot bubbles.
And that's too bad, since "Little Giants" has its heart in the right place, and even has something to say about girls being involved in so-called "boys" sports.
The story is built around the small-town rivalry of two brothers, macho Ed O'Neill (TV's Al Bundy in "Married . . . With Children") and nerdy Rick Moranis (the "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" pictures).
They play, respectively, Kevin and Danny O'Shea, who grew up together in Urbania, Ohio, and are now settled in their hometown with their own families. Kevin is a former football star who runs a Chevrolet dealership, while Danny operates the Shell service station down the road.
In a gratuitous plot device that attempts to force a serious sensibility on the proceedings, Danny is also a single parent, his wife having abandoned him some years earlier. His daughter Becky (Shawna Waldron) is a tomboy and the best football player in town, nicknamed "The Ice Box."
When chauvinistic Uncle Kevin passes her over for his peewee team because she's a girl she is particularly distraught. So, she coerces her father into forming another team. Danny begins recruiting all the misfits in town . . . and you can probably write the rest of this yourself.
However, the peewee rules stipulate "one town, one team," so Kevin and Danny agree to a playoff game after a couple of weeks of practice. And the final third or so of the film is devoted to that rowdy game.
Despite the formidable presence of Moranis and O'Neill, the film focuses on the kids, who have a clubhouse and lead fairly independent "Little Rascals"-style lives. And some of the gags could have come directly from the recent "Little Rascals" movie.
But the screenplay (credited to four writers) and direction (by Duwayne Dunham, "Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey") is mediocre at best and often downright boring. Even the final showdown game sags in places; some judicious editing might have helped.
Despite their star billing, Moranis and O'Neill don't have nearly enough to do, though O'Neill does manage to lend his character some dimension. And a tentative romance between Moranis' character and the mother of one of his players is woefully underdeveloped. (And was it really a good idea in a kids' picture to have them race a train to the crossing?)
"Little Giants" is rated PG for mild profanity and vulgarity, along with some comic violence.