When this new feature (Is it Still..?) launched, I immediately felt compelled to revisit Little Giants. It’s the best idea that I’ve had in a long time. Sibling rivalry, a collection of underdogs, the sweet center part in Dev0n Sawa’s overgrown bowl cut. But here’s the real kicker for me: This is a film about two brothers hashing out a sibling rivalry on the football field and, at the time of its release, I played football with my brother. At the time, I felt this might be a glimpse into my future. I’m so happy I didn’t grow up to be Rick Moranis.
For the uninitiated (sorry you missed out): The story follows a young girl, Becky O’Shea (Shawna Waldron), trying to play football for the team coached by her uncle, Kevin O’Shea. When she is cut from the team, her supportive father, Danny O’Shea (Rick Moranis), who has always lived under Kevin’s shadow, takes it personal. He decides to build a team to beat them. Which sounds good in theory, except all of the actual good football players in the area already play for Kevin. But, as there can only be one team per count, they are ultimately pitted against each other for the right to be the team.
Now, let’s talk about Becky “Icebox” O’Shea for a minute. How I remembered her: Icebox was the first crush I ever had that was built on equal doses of attraction and fear (I actually had a girl on my team and she was tougher than any of us. Because of Icebox, I had very confused feelings about this teammate). On rewatch, I realized that Icebox is the perfect figurehead to stand before the rallying cry of every little girl that aspires to play a “boys” sport and every young woman who ever struggled with her identity in any sense. With a little help from her dad, Icebox realizes that she does not have to fit any mold, which makes her struggle a more healthy reference point than many of the young adult heroines of contemporary films.
But, where Little Giants holds up is in the sharpness of its children’s humor. It never forgets which demographic seeks to please. When many films for children try to embed jokes that might appeal to older audiences, Little Giants’ comedic approach remains unabashedly immature throughout. But the simple humor offered from a snot bubble to stick-em on the hands, from foaming at the mouth to a wildcard play called the “Annexation of Puerto Rico,” the comedic Little Giants are still very much in tune. I mean, yeah, this is as 90’s as a movie can get, but at a moment in which people are nostalgically zombie-marathoning every episode of Friends that is not necessarily a bad thing.
And there is one area in which the revisit of Little Giants was an improvement upon the early watch. The 90’s were a time when sports stars frequented the screen (you’re due for a revisit, Space Jam). And, I’d forgotten about the cameos of high stature NFL legends in this film, top performing athletes and announcers that had served as my childhood heroes and villains (I hate you, Emmit Smith). This provided an unexpected trip down a whole different memory lane that I wasn’t anticipating.
All in all, the charm and appeal of Little Giants is still evident, though watching it as a grown man changes the perception. I still laughed at the snot bubble, I think I’ve come to terms with the crush I had on Icebox, and the “one time, I beat him” speech is still one of my secret sports movie favorites.