I just finished watching Little Giants for the first time, and I’ve got to say it’s an absolute delight. It spreads the message of teamwork and determination, but also the problem with boomers and rampant corn wastage.
If you haven’t seen the movie, lemme give you the elevator pitch: A team of “losers,” coached by a “loser,” band together to beat a team of “winners” in a game of pee-wee football. In the end, everyone learns that friendship and family is the real prize.
Watching as an adult for the first time, here are my thoughts!
Kevin is a sad, sad dude.
Kevin O’Shea (Ed O’Neill) is unquestionably the tragic figure in this film. A star football player, we’re never told what caused Kevin to flame out of the NFL. Everyone talks about his high school career and the fact he won the Heisman, but he obviously didn’t make an impact in the pros. Instead, he moved back to Urbania, Ohio, started a Chevrolet dealership, and exists in a local diner to keep reminding old dudes that he was a legend. Even they’re growing tired of his shtick.
Kevin is a joke to his family, annoys almost everyone around him, and he’s only regarded highly by his brother, Danny (Rick Moranis), and assistant pee-wee coach Harold Butz (Joe Bays). The movie positions him as this winner, which I’m sure resonated with kids watching the movie — but to me, I couldn’t reconcile the inescapable sadness of this dude. He literally has nothing to live for but coaching this pee-wee team to try and cling to his fading glory. I struggle to find anything in this world sadder than people who are in their 30s and 40s excitedly recalling high school stories because they have achieved so little of note in the 20 years since.
It’s OK to dislike Kevin, though, because he’s a sexist asshole. He decides not to pick Becky “Icebox” O’Shea (Shawna Waldron) to be a member of his team, only because she’s a girl. This is his own niece, and Icebox friggin’ owns. She’s better than every kid in town, but she doesn’t make the team because of gender.
“Danny, I hate to break it to you, but Icebox is a girl. Now, maybe if you’d start treating her like a girl, she’d start acting like one.”
Kevin’s wife, Karen, even confronts him at dinner about not picking Icebox and he doubles down on the decision. He’s aptly called a chauvinist, and then we get to the most disturbing moment of the movie.
WHY DOES THE O’SHEA FAMILY NEED SO MUCH CORN?!
At the 13:11 mark of the movie, we’re introduced to an ordinary, run-of-the-mill dinner scene. I’ll admit I’ve never had this kind of nuclear family, serving-dish dinner thing — but this is a mess nonetheless. Four people are at the table: Kevin, Karen, and their daughters, Debbie and Priscilla. Nobody else is expected, and there is no mention of this being a special occasion or gathering.
I stopped multiple times while watching to ensure the veracity of the corn count. The count is solid, the count is good. So why the hell did the O’Shea family prepare 11 ears of corn for dinner? It’s such an oddly specific number. Who goes to the store and is like “11 ears of corn, please”?
This entire dinner scene is a mess. They’re eating ham, turkey, corn, broccoli, salad, rolls, mashed potatoes — there are TWO gravy boats on the table. This is a Thanksgiving spread on a weeknight. No wonder boomers robbed this earth of all its natural resources and put humanity on the brink of extinction.
The unexpected monologue about infertility and miscarriage, in a children’s movie.
At 24:32, Cheryl Berman brings her son, Jake, to the garage for football practice. Jake, a hacking and wheezing nerd, is the son of a hypochondriac who spends A FULL 2 MINUTES explaining to Danny about how Jake was almost a miscarriage.
“You can’t be too cautious. After all, we never thought we’d have children. Not after trying for 13 years. It was me. When I finally did get pregnant, the doctor ordered me off to bed. I spent nine miserable months on my back. If I’d rolled over I could have lost him. And the birth ... God only knows the pain. He weighed only 1 pound, 11 ounces — he spent the first six weeks of his life in an incubator — and I think football is just the medicine for him.”
Hey Little Giants, YOU’RE A KIDS MOVIE. Was this supposed to pull adults in? You know there are so many ways you can establish Jake being a germ kid without his mom giving a damn monologue on how he almost died in the womb. Jesus.
The weirdest grocery store in the world.
In dire need of a quarterbacks, some kids find Junior (Devon Sawa) at a grocery store throwing rolls of toilet paper into a grocery cart. Certified dreamboat Junior is the focus of this scene, but I couldn’t concentrate because of this stores shelves.
How many egg noodles are the people of Urbania consuming? Now, if we’re to assume that Urbania is basically Urbana, Ohio, then the population is somewhere around 12,000. There are 456 visible units of egg noodles on the shelf as Icebox walks past.
I went to my local store in Greenville, NC — population 93,000. There were 30 packages of egg noodles on the shelf split across brands. This means that expected egg noodle consumption in Urbania is 119 times greater than Greenville.
They also need boatloads of vegetable oil and applesauce too, apparently.
The only inference I can make from this is that Oily Apple Noodles is the town dish.
The secret weapon is a roided up child monster.
We’re basically at the midpoint of the movie, and Kevin’s Cowboys are starting to get a little concerned with Danny’s Giants. After a “hilarious” scheme where Danny calls the cops and infers that his own brother is a child molester spying on the kids, both are trying to find an edge.
And yes, there’s a surprise waiting for both of them: Spike, an adult-sized running back who just arrived in town with a flat-top sporting dad who’s bred him into being a football machine through the time-honored tradition of being a horrible parent.
The first time we see Spike on screen, he’s carrying a refrigerator out of the back of a U-Haul and scowling the entire time. This is not a happy child, and yet Danny can’t wait to get him on the team — even lying to ensure it’s a possibility.
Naturally, this all unravels. Spike is too aggressive, can only speak in the third person, and threatens everyone. He is a demonstrably horrible human — and it’s not his fault.
Urbania, home of giant ice.
We’ve already established that this town has some weird food traditions, but it turns out this extends to ice too.
Look at the size of those cubes in Becky’s soda. What is up with this diner that you order a drink and get two whiskey cubes?
Everything in this town is strange.
Enter John Madden and friends.
The Little Giants are at a crossroads. Torn apart by Spike’s attitude, they decide football isn’t fun anymore and walk away from the game. Thankfully, in a stunning case of deus ex Maddena, John Madden and a group of football stars are taking the bus to Canton for a Hall of Fame banquet. Lost, and in dire need of directions, Madden and Co. decide helping a pee-wee football team is more important than their prior commitment and meet with the team.
It’s unclear exactly what the NFL players add to the Little Giants. We’ll get to this later.
Someone PLEASE help these kids understand human sexuality.
So we’ve established that Becky is head-over-heels for Junior. The two meet at the side of the lake and talk about kissing, in a scene designed to tease a potential love angle in the film. Then we get this, utterly baffling exchange.
Junior: You want to learn how to kiss!?
Becky: Hey, we’re going to have to learn how to do it sooner or later. I mean, you know, if you want to have kids and get a job and stuff.
Junior: You can have kids without kissing.
Becky: Yeah, but you can’t get a job.
Oh God, there’s a lot to unpack here. No matter which way you slice it, these kids are woefully confused about what it takes to start a career. Maybe the job market in Urbania circa 1994 was different, but the idea that you can’t get a job without kids is some backwards-ass thinking if even I’ve seen it.
The Battle for Urbania.
With 37 minutes remaining, we finally get to the big game between the Cowboys and the Little Giants, taking place on the world’s nicest pee-wee football field. The Giants are without Icebox, because Becky has decided to be a cheerleader instead of a player in an effort to make Junior think of her more like a girl.
Icebox, if he doesn’t like you for playing football, he doesn’t deserve you.
There is literally nothing else to do in Urbania, because the almost entire town has shown up — and those who can’t be there can listen to it on the radio because there’s an actual radio announcer FOR A CHILD’S FOOTBALL GAME.
This announcer (Harry Shearer of The Simpsons fame) is super inappropriate too. After one of the Giants is kicked in the groin he says:
“Someone’s holding about a pound of Aunt Betty’s nut butter right now.”
SIR, YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT A CHILD!
The Giants get utterly demolished in the first half, and they want to quit. Danny delivers a motivational speech, telling his team that while they might not be better overall, you never know what can happen in a game. Maybe, just maybe they can beat the Cowboys — once. That’s all it takes.
Amped up and ready to go, we hit the second half and the Giants look like a different team. It’s at this point the Giants call the cruelest play in the history of football at any level. Johnny has been established as a fairly somber kid. All he wants is his dad to notice him, but his dad is always leaving on business. Sad woodwind music accompanies all his scenes, and it’s a tragic B plot in the movie.
Johnny gets the handoff and lo and behold, his dad is back and waiting in the end zone. It’s here where Becky yells: “Just run to him!” Yes, the Giants are leveraging Johnny’s feelings of inadequacy and loneliness to win. It’s tragic.
I love you now.
WAA WAA WAA
Finally, after its presence being teased all movie long, we finally get to see “The Annexation of Puerto Rico,” the trick play devised by Nubie (Matthew McCurley) that he discussed with Madden. It’s a hidden ball play with swelling music, and against the odds it works.
The Giants win, Danny is elated. Kevin is utterly devastated because not only did he lose the game and therefore his entire reason for existence, but he also bet his entire car dealership on the game because he’s an idiot.
Think about this for a second: All Kevin has in this life is football and his business. He just lost both. Payback for his sexism and corn wastage, in my opinion.
Danny, merciful as he is, says he doesn’t plan to take the business and asks if they want to coach together. The movie closes with the town water tower being repainted from honoring Kevin O’Shea to “The O’Shea Brothers,” because in Urbania winning a single pee-wee game is the equivalent to a Heisman career.
This is a good-ass kids sports movie that I’m angry I didn’t see before now. I 100 percent would have had a major crush on Icebox if I watched this as a kid, because she’s one of the greatest characters in any kid’s sport movie.
The best sports movies have characters you can identify with and make you feel like you’re in the movie. Shoutout to farting lineman Rudy Zolteck (Michael Zwiener) for making me feel like one of the gang.
I give Little Giants nine ears of corn out of 10 plates of Urbania Oily Apple Noodles.