John Hughes’ comic slapstick, combined with anti-authority attitudes, is recaptured in Little Gangster. Having premiered in the new Kids Section of Sundance, this Dutch film delighted an audience of festival youth last month in Park City. It seems that the only thing separating the jaunty comedy from the grown-ups’ section is its lack of gratuitous nudity and violence.
Whether you’re in Amsterdam or the Chicago ‘burbs, it’s the same old survival story for shy and smallish kids. In this yarn, a young boy, Rik (Thor Braun), is bullied at school, but has no adult to counsel him. His single father is such a nebbish that he’s virtually an adult doormat.
A winning kid com.
With a fortuitous promotion to another area, father and son start a new life. Rik has a mid-kid crisis and undertakes to re-invent himself. Modeling himself after such cool anti-heroes as James Dean, he struts his stuff with his leather jacket, white T-shirt and pompadour. In this kids’ comedic bash, Rik most resembles Fonzi from classic TV show Happy Days, as opposed to more threatening bad boys.
He also invigorates his last name of Boskamp by adding an “i” in a ruse to make it appear as if his father has mob connections. Predictably, classmates take appreciative notice. An added bonus: His bravado attracts the girls.
The biggest laughs are, not surprisingly, generated by the slapstick and sight gags; the visual humor is articulate. Among the cast, Henry van Loon is perfect as the milquetoast father, befuddled and bewildered and stumbling adroitly through all his pratfalls with appealing frustration. Braun is winning as the wannabe tough boy.
As befits the Hughes oeuvre, there’s a comic knucklehead who is the brunt of the cruel slapstick, in this case a paranoid ex-cop across the street who endures such tribulations as befell Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern in Home Alone.
Cast: Thor Braun, Henry Van Loon, Rene Van’t Hof, Meral Polat, Fedja Van Huet, Maas Bronkhuyzen
Director: Arne Toonen
Screenwriter: Lotte Tabbers
Producers: Maarten Kuit, Dave Schram
Executive producers: Noortje Dijkstra, Niek Teunissen
Cinematographer: Rutger Storm
Editors: Marc Bechtold, Brian Ent
Production designer: Vincent de Pater
No rating, 102 minutes