Welcome back, friends and internet colleagues, to this latest installment of 73 Sports Movies in 73+ Days, which we’re just going to unofficially refer to as “Burnsy Is Watching Every Sports Movie Ever Made Over The Next Year” because that’s what this has come down to. The only snag that I’ve hit so far is that I can’t find Comrades of Summer or Prayer of the Roller Boys anywhere. Stupid, awesome 90s HBO original movies that nobody remembers.
I thought I’d bring this sucker back from its coma with a true classic in the form of 1994’s Little Giants, which I actually loathed when I first watched it 19 years ago. I really hated this movie beyond description. It had a lot to do with how much I hated Rick Moranis when I was younger, as I obviously loved him in Spaceballs, but I think I held it against him that he made other movies. I was a stupid, stubborn kid if you haven’t already learned that from previous installments.
So how did I like Little Giants 19 years after it was released in theaters? It might be the best damned sports movie ever made.
The Classic Story Of Brother Vs. Brother
Little Giants is yet another perfect by-the-numbers sports movie that focuses on several clichés that are all wrapped up into one giant meatball of relatable nostalgia. At its core, Little Giants is a story of underdogs, but on top of that is a layer of lovable losers who aren’t good enough to make the team, covered in a delicious sauce of unique characters, deep fried in the batter of the most unlikely hero and then served over a bed of a macho, overachieving older brother always taking his nerdy, idolizing kid brother for granted.
But it’s that last layer, the brother vs. brother angle, that really gives Little Giants its heart and soul. Kevin O’Shea (Ed O’Neill) is the local legend of Urbania, a town so plain they might as well have named if Suburban Place, and he’s a high school and college football national champion with a Heisman Trophy as the cherry on top. Like any great former football player, Kevin has returned to Urbania to open a car dealership and serve as the overbearing, tyrannical asshole coach of the local peewee football team. He married his high school sweetheart and has two wonderful daughters, which must devour him inside, because the closest thing that he has to a son is a bunch of jerk players.
Then there’s his younger brother, Danny O’Shea (Rick Moranis), who is the complete opposite. He was the nerdy kid always on the sideline as a kid, faking injuries to disguise why he wasn’t ever good enough to play sports. But he’s the guy with the good heart, doing what he can within his limitations to raise his daughter to be as happy as she can be. That’s because to really pour on the sappy, sad sack image that Danny carries, he’s a single dad, whose wife left him “for a better team.” It’s hard not to feel bad for Danny, especially when Kevin still basically treats him like a dick.
One Brother’s View of Peewee Football…
Bringing their silent feud to the forefront is the biggest day in all of Urbania, when the roster for the peewee football team is chosen. There are a few problems with this early scene in the movie, as these are all of the kids who showed up to try out:
That’s 19 kids by my count. I guess this is ironman peewee football, so not all of them have to be chosen, but having played my share of kids sports (when I was younger, and not when I recently tried to enroll in high school to play baseball, a la David Arquette in Never Been Kissed) and having been both the good player and the shitty kid they stuck in right field because no 10-year old knows how to push a ball yet, I know that the simple solution that could have ended this movie after 8 minutes would have been to put all of the kids on the team and invoke the “limited play” rule for the crappier athletes.
Alas, this needed to be an actual feature length film, so Kevin gave the good athletes spots on the roster and bid the kids who were slow and couldn’t catch farewell. Danny, of course, sees this as “wrong” because all kids should have a shot to participate, lest their delicate little hearts be shattered in front of their peers. Thus, we have an argument for each brother:
Kevin: When building a winning team, you select the best athletes. Plain and simple. Hearts will be broken, but that should inspire the other kids to work harder. In fact, I love his line, “Kids like that, they learn things, they invent things, they win Nobel Prizes.” Because he’s totally right, and God knows I wish we could drill this line into today’s kids’ brains OVER AND OVER AND OVER so they’ll stop worshipping douchebags and start creating again so Idiocracy never happens.
Danny: Every kid should have a chance to play because it builds friendship and unity, and it helps them all with their self-esteems.
Normally, I’d agree with Kevin here, because the job of the coach is to win games, even if it is just peewee football. What’s the point in teaching kids that winning isn’t the most important thing when that’s what destroys the ambition to succeed and innovate?
And I’ll tell you why this is the wrong train of thought…
Let’s Talk About Sean Murphy for a Second
This kid’s a shithead. I don’t care where you grew up or what sport may have been the most popular in your schools, there was always a Sean Murphy and he was always a sociopathic asshole that should have been sent away to boarding school. I can’t remember the kid’s name, but there was one particular Sean Murphy that I’ll always remember most, because on game day, he’d run through the school tackling younger kids into lockers and screaming over them as they cried on the ground. I don’t know what ever happened to that Sean Murphy, but if anyone ever asks me if I know, I’m going to tell them that he had his lips burnt off while huffing from his car’s tailpipe before he eventually died from alcohol poisoning while buttchugging Everclear behind an elementary school after he was fired from his job as the school’s assistant janitor.
If you were a Sean Murphy, I hope that you’ve either gone back and made the proper amends, or you met your maker with an unlubed funnel shoved into your b-hole.
On Ice Box and the Struggles of the Young Female in Boys Leagues
Having played on my city’s little league team that was the first to feature a girl, I can attest that Little Giants is very accurate in regard to the way that girls are treated by young boys when they’re playing sports. Young boys are, by nature, the most sexist animals on the planet, and just a little good parenting and positive media influence could go a long way in eradicating that problem. Fortunately, Little Giants went one step further and made Ice Box the best athlete in all of Urbania.
Naturally, her uncle Kevin won’t put a girl on his team because he’s an archaic asshole, and that’s why we spend over an hour waiting for him to get his. But what makes Ice Box most appealing is the way that she doesn’t just back up her tough talk on the field when trying out for the Cowboys. She also straight up commits assault and even attempted murder on Sean Murphy and his cronies. Ah, the 80s and 90s, when Hollywood could tell kids that it was okay to fight back against bullies, and it wouldn’t inspire 600 million lawsuits.
Regardless, if Ice Box inspired even one girl to shed a stereotype and try to play sports with the boys, then this movie is even better than it already was.
So Let’s Meet the Little Giants, Shall We?
One of the logistical flaws of this movie is the fact that a guy who doesn’t know the difference between half-court and the 50-yard line has two weeks to take a bunch of kids who have never even seen a football and somehow teach them how to beat a bunch of athletic kids and their Heisman Trophy winner coach. But then, what’s the fun in trying to determine how anything in this movie makes sense when the ultimate point is that every kid has his own strengths and it just takes the right motivation to bring it out?
We’ve already met Ice Box, so let’s get to the boy who is apparently the best QB in town but either had no clue that the Cowboys were having tryouts or he was holding out for a group of losers to welcome him as their own.
What I want to know is why Junior was throwing toilet paper rolls into a shopping cart in the middle of a supermarket. Was he planning to buy all of that toilet paper? Does he or his mom have IBS and require to keep 50 rolls of the soft stuff on hand at all time? It’s just kind of strange that a kid would spend his time playing Joe Montana in the paper aisle.
Next, there’s the kid who put a cup over his mouth.
I did that when I was a kid, so he’s relatable. Then there’s this kid, whose best role will always be screaming, “MONSTER!” at Kramer.
Let’s talk about the assistant coach for a second…
I know that I can’t sit here and crap all over a kid for playing a role, especially not after I spent some time praising this movie for teaching us that for every athlete, we need 10 scientists. But I hated and still hate this kid. He’s like the nerd’s Sean Murphy, the kid that was so smart that he wouldn’t talk to anyone who wasn’t on his level. Trust me, they exist, too.
And then there’s Spike.
F*cking Spike, man. He’s far worse than Sean Murphy, but he’s a much rarer breed. The Ivan Drago clone trained from birth to excel in sports by a father whose dick stopped working shortly after college ended and his terrible 9 to 5 began. Bad things happen to Spikes, parents. Do not let your sons grow up to be Spike.
The Most Diabolically Evil Part of this Movie
By adding Spike to the team, Danny alienates Ice Box and pushes her further into her prepubescent confusion of wondering whether she should be playing sports or taking a spot on the sidelines as a cheerleader. Along comes Kevin, who knows that taking Ice Box out of the Little Giants’ roster is the key to an easy victory. So as she’s sitting there moping over every horrible thought that can cross a young girl’s mind, he takes advantage of her emotional cry for help and pushes her away from what she’s best at, all so he can win a game. For that, Kevin should have fallen out of several windows and crushed his nuts on every tree branch along the way.
Kevin O’Shea is a horrible, awful man.
This Team Really Doesn’t Stand A Chance In Hell
Fortunately, John Madden and a bunch of NFL stars show up to help the Little Giants learn how to play football and grow some balls one day before their big game. And grow some balls, they do!
I hope that all these years later that actor still shows this scene to girls to get a little extra something for his nerdy troubles.
This Whole Scene… So Awkward, So True
The writers of this movie don’t get enough credit for how intelligent this script is for it being about a bunch of kids. Is it cheesy as hell? You bet. But it’s far more accurate than any movie of its time that is centered around a bunch of goofy ass kids.
The Big Game
After Kevin helps talk Ice Box out of being a tom boy and Junior quits the team because his teammates are whiny little jerks, Danny is left to coach, well, a bunch of whiny little jerks. That means it’s time to get pounded by the Cowboys into complete and utter humiliation. The whole thing’s a terrible clusterf*ck.
Fortunately, Junior changed his mind with no explanation, and that’s always the easiest way to change a mind. Also, somewhere along the way, the Cowboys picked up 10 extra players. Funny how those roster expansions work. Naturally, Danny doubles down and bets Kevin that if he loses, he’ll give him his gas station. If Danny wins, he gets Kevin’s car dealership. And the whole time, the town is watching and wondering when these brothers are going to whip it out and piss for distance.
It’s also worth pointing out that the Little Giants call the plays the same way the 2013 Giants do:
We should remember that for as much as I love The Replacements, that movie completely ripped off a scene from Little Giants.
You know, among every other sports movie before it. But I still love that movie, damn it.
At halftime, the score is 21-0 Cowboys over the Little Giants, which makes no sense, because Spike should have had like 5 TDs and 300 yards. But he didn’t, so that opened the door for one of the greatest motivational halftime scenes ever filmed.
One time. That never makes it into the pro sports montages, which is just stupid. God knows the Jaguars could use it. After the Giants score, Ice Box remembers who she is and decides to get back in the game after Spike injures her boo.
Ice Box strips the ball from Spike to set up the next touchdown for the kid who has daddy issues and suddenly the Little Giants know how to play defense. That’s when Sean Murphy shows up again to talk shit about Berman’s mom and he reminds us why he’s the best.
One thing leads to another, and eventually we’re left with the play so nice that the Carolina Panthers decided to steal it – the Annexation of Puerto Rico.
The most important question, of course, remains – Why didn’t Kevin call a timeout when he realized that the Little Giants knew the 4th and Goal play call? Because he was a terrible coach, that’s why. And that’s why the Little Giants scored on their trick play, because brains always beat brawn.
The Little Giants Epilogue: Where Are They Now?
Ready to feel old? Kevin O’Shea’s youngest daughter was played by Alexa Vega, who looks like this in Machete Kills:
And this is what Ice Box looks like today:
Final Grade: A+, you perverts. A+.