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|19 reviews in total|
It's nice to see the Gang on familiar grounds: seeing a real-life event
with adults, and then trying to imitate it. It worked in "Robot
Wrecks," and to a certain extent, it works in this short.
Just as in the adult premiere, several of the Gang members proudly make their entrance in the "big premiere" the kids plan. Buckwheat even tries to make "star footprints" by stepping into some gloppy cement which dries instantly ("Hey, I'm stuck!") What's rather funny is how he begins to doze off...which his feet still in the hard cement!
As for the movie the Gang makes, it's slightly funny at best...though there is one particularly amusing scene in which Darla proclaims, "Here comes my hero now, isn't he handsome?" expecting Alfalfa to enter on cue; instead, an errant goat wanders onto the set!
Finally, this short relies on the can't-miss gimmick of Alfalfa's unforgettably bad singing. This would be an otherwise ordinary scene, except that a hen roosted above, drops an egg in Alfalfa's mouth. After he swallows it, "cheep cheep" is heard through the rest of his song, followed by an animated chick coming out of his mouth. Probably one of the most ingenious comic scenes MGM delivered in an Our Gang film.
One of the few MGM shorts worth watching more than once!
.....and that's all too seldom in the MGM Our Gang series.
What a neat idea: the Gang takes a bus to go fishing with tons of equipment, much to the frustration of an already-irritable conductor. This is one of those plot ideas that just can't fail.
Some of the best scenes involves a running gag in which each Gang member stumbles onto the double-decker bus with all their fishing gear, and the conductor yells at each kid to pay the fare; each kid keeps saying: "Mickey's got it!" And, naturally, Mickey is the last kid to get on the bus.
There's another funny scene in which the Gang learns that the bus is heading to the West River (and doesn't everyone know kids fish in the East River?). They're about to get off the bus (further delaying the bus's departure ), when the conductor convinces them that the fishing is better in the West River -- he even goes so far as to name each and every fish that lives in the West River!
Other scenes work as well. Aside from that, the Gang looks pretty good in this short. The acting is fairly natural (which is commonly a stretch for these aging young actors). Even Mickey isn't his usual whiny, obnoxious self (no offense to Robert Blake). What's more, the kids' innocence is priceless; at the end of the film, the bus leaves them at the bus stop, zooming away at double-speed. "I think that conductor was sore at us," says Alfalfa. "Yeah," replies Mickey, "I wonder why?"
The actor is plays the poor conductor is perfectly cast, as are the harangued passengers on the bus. Commenting on the delay, one man moans, "I'd have been better off if I'd walked to work!"
What a wonderful film!
This is another one of those MGM mini-musicals in which the Our Gang
kids seems almost peripheral, at least compared to the professional
dancers in this film
In the beginning, we see the likes of Spanky, Buckwheat, Mickey, etc., as they ask Walter Wills to help them put on another show (sounds like "Ye Olde Minstrels II").
And in the opening number we do have Janet (in her pre-obnoxious days) doing a cute rendition of "Grandman Wore a Bustle." Then Spanky, Mickey, Buckwheat, and Froggy do a medley of songs. Each does a solo, except Buckwheat for some reason: perhaps he couldn't sing (though that didn't stop the other boys..heh heh).
Ironically, the best part of this short doesn't even involve the talents of Our Gang. This is where the professional child dancers come out to do show their stuff: they do the jitterbug, the Charleston, the boogie woogie, etc. It's really neat to watch.
With that said, I'm not entirely convinced I was watching an Our Gang short. It was more like a Dancing School recital with the Gang as supporting players. Still, it's an overall enjoyable film.
I give the writers credit for one thing: they made a film that doesn't
emphasize a lesson (read "Family Troubles," "Good Bad Boys," etc.).
Plus, they used a story line that (almost) can't miss: going into the
That's the good news.
The bad news is that the attempts at humor just fall flat. When Froggy, the only would-be customer, is asked why he doesn't want to buy any lemonade, responds: "I don't have no money, and besides it's too hot in here." (ha ha?)
At the end of the film, the mule spontaneously brays, followed by hysterical laughter from the kids. What's funny about a mule braying??
Even the joke where Spanky explains why nobody came to their show ("because everyone in the neighborhood is IN the show") is rather lame.
This was Waldo's last appearance in the Our Gang series. He did an adequate job; the only problem is that the character he once had (an erudite rival for Darla's affections) simply disappeared in this short. He wasn't the Waldo we all grew to know and love.
On a more positive note, Darla was a fine singer and dancer as usual. Her talent definitely improved as evidenced by her performance in this film. And, of course, Alfalfa's bad singing came in handy when he and the Gang sang "How Dry I Am."
Otherwise, there's not much else to recommend in this film.
Let's book back to the early years of Buckwheat....
In the Hal Roach days, all Buckwheat had to do (and presumably could do) was spout catch phrases like "here I is" and "O-tay!," while acting as Porky's comrade. His "character" was firmly established.
Then along came the MGM Our Gangs. Apparently, Buckwheat was getting too old for his catch phrases, so he just became just another supporting (and at times peripheral) member of Our Gang. I guess the writers couldn't figure out what to do with him.
Along came "Don't Lie" in which Buckwheat assumed the persona of a scared, bug-eyed, overreactive little guy, especially in the haunted house scenes. Now, of course, nowadays, they couldn't get away with this because it would be politically incorrect today. But at the time Buckwheat was imitating what many Black actors of that time did. And he did it quite well. His best moment is when he first sees the "monkey-faced spook": the camera pans down to a close-up of his feet which run in place for several seconds. Hilarious!
As a whole, this film has a few flaws. One flaw emanates from the unlikelihood that the Gang would be afraid of a chimp (which objectively wasn't all that big and scary). Another problem is that seems strange for the chimp to be wearing a chimp mask over his face. That part was left unexplained. Froggy, dressed as an ape in order to scare Buckwheat straight, does the classic mirror gag with the chimp. The only problem is that it wasn't done in a very funny way. Finally, one gag that should have worked involved the kids who, after seeing a lion, escaped their club house by crashing through a wall leaving cut-outs of themselves behind. So why didn't it work? Because it's obvious these cut-outs were prepared in advance, making the whole joke seem fake.
This short is distinguishable mainly for Buckwheat's performance. He really does a decent job!
I propose that the writers of "Family Troubles" held the following
brainstorming session regarding the so-called comic potential for the
Writer #1: "Tell me what you guys think of this: we start off the film with Janet drowning in tears because she feels her family doesn't love her anymore."
Other writers: "HEY, THAT'S FUNNY! HO HO HO HA HA HA! WHAT A BEGINNING!"
Writer #2: "OK, if you think THAT'S funny, how's this: the Gang tries to to get an elderly couple to adopt Janet, and this couple tries to teach Janet a lesson by making her life twice as miserable!"
Other Writers: "HEE HEE HEE HEE HEE HAW HAW HAW HAW! WHERE DO YOU GUYS COME UP WITH THIS? WHAT A RIOT!"
Writer #3: "Oh, this will be surpass even that -- at the end of the movie, Froggy happily says: 'All's well that ends well, I always say.' Then Janet's father corrects him: 'Froggy, Shakespeare said that.' 'He did?? Shucks!' yells Froggy.
Other writers: "OH, MY STOMACH! WOO HOO HAA HAA WAA HAA HAA! WE SHOULD ALL GET A RAISE, WE'RE SO DARNED FUNNY!"
And that, my friends, is how "funny" this movie is.
I don't know, I guess some jokes which sound good just don't end up
looking all that funny on-screen.
Take the scene where Mickey, Froggy, and Buckwheat try to get kicked out of class by disrupting the teacher's lesson with a spontaneous Dynamo Dick comic book recitation. Sounds amusing, but....
When they're punished by having to write "I will be a good pupil" 100 times on the board, Froggy gets an idea: he wedges 5 chalks in an eraser to expedite the process. Again, funny on paper, but rather obvious in the viewing stage.
During the fishing scene, the writers of this film try their darnedest to be funny. Buckwheat asks Froggy why he included a toy mouse in his bait. "To catch catfish," Froggy replies. As Froggy shows his pals how an "expert" casts, he catches the backseat of his pants (Ouch!) That was one of the few fairly funny gags.
Other gags would have been funny if they made a little more sense. When Mickey catches a pail during an overhead cast, it sends him flying to the edge of the pier (gee, what a light kid Mickey must be!). He yells for help at that point (he's still on the pier, and not even close to falling in the water...what is he yelling "help" for??) At one point Buckwheat falls into the water, as do the rest of the gang at some point. It turns out the water is very shallow, yet they all yell "help!" (huh?)
The best joke is where Buckwheat and Froggy are fishing on either side of the pier, and their hooks get caught on each other in the water. This causes Froggy and Buckwheat to literally pull each other back and forth while commenting on how strong their fish must be. Now, THAT was well-done!
And then, of course, there just HAS to be an adult (the "wise old fisherman") to teach the kids a lesson about truancy from school, studying hard, bla bla bla. This had been done before in previous Our Gang shorts (such as "Robot Wrecks" and "Good Bad Boys").
Ah, for the good OL' days of Hal Roach!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A few years back, in "Rushin' Ballet," Spanky and Alfalfa disguised
themselves as young ballerinas to discourage Butch and Woim.
OK, so much for the reference. Now, as to "The New Pupil" ---
The idea seems to be the following: if someone breaks a lunch date with you, get your revenge by humiliating them. That seems to be the case with Darla who feels slighted when Spanky and Alfalfa break that promise with her. So, with the help of Sally, the boys are cajoled into playing tea party, dressed up as the homeliest pair of young girls you'd ever see!
It's a good story, and seeing Spanky and Alfalfa play along is priceless. At one point, when the boys are given babies, Alfalfa is asked what he(she) feeds his(her) baby; he answers: "Oh, I give her some milk, a couple of hamburgers, and once a week a little..." (then is inspired by seeing a bag of fertilizer!). Pretty funny. Later on the boys sing "Go To Sleep My Baby," a song which, as many Our Gang aficionados know was sung by Alfalfa five years ago in "Little Papa."
A couple of things don't make sense though: why would Spanky and Alfalfa waste time going after a girl who's not interested in boys? Also, if Sally isn't interested in boys, and Mickey isn't interested in girls, why would they hang out together near the end of the film??
Bit of trivia: Froggy makes his first appearance in this Our Gang short (although, for some reason, he's called Harold by the teacher).
Juanita Quigley does an excellent job in her role as Sally. She would later be seen in "Going to Press." It's a shame she didn't do more Our Gang shorts. Given the general downward slide in the quality of these films, it couldn't have hurt.
This is one of the few times I agree wholeheartedly with film critic
Leonard Maltin. This film "is so bad, it's embarrassing."
I'm not even sure if one can accurately call this short a comedy. There's one faintly comic scene. When Froggy is forced to wear a moon patch on his ripped pants, he gets "razzed" for it.
Otherwise, this film isn't funny at all. So what went wrong?
First of all, the story itself isn't comically inspiring. All the kids are loudly and obnoxiously whining about war-time sacrifices, and they spend the whole first half of the film doing it. Then the Gang tries to boost morale by putting on a play (how original!) where Mickey dresses as Benjamin Franklin to give a work-hard-for-what-little-you-can-get pep talk. Does this sound funny to anybody yet?
My theory is that Spanky's exit affected the brains of the writers, and the result was this piece of garbage!
OK, let's see.....
Mickey wants to steal a Venus De Millo statue, but Spanky says it's no good because its arms are gone (he he)
Alfalfa suggests they steal a piano. "Now, where are you gonna hide a big thing like that?!" Spanky cracks. (ho ho)
Buckwheat is so nervous as he makes off with a tambourine, he can't stop shaking it. When told to get rid of it. he throws it on the ground, with a "snip and a haircut" rhythm (ha ha)
Buckwheat is told to whistle if the cops come. He whistles at the sight of a dog. Why? "P-p-police dog!" he says. (Uh...ok)
When the Gang is hiding, an unseen skunk is nearby. When the kids smell it, they think the police are using tear gas to get them to surrender (Right! Ha!)
Well, you get the point.
Even worse than the relative lack of gags is the fact that this short is really REALLY blatant as it drives home a lesson: not just to the kids who intended to commit a crime, but to the parents for not listening to their kids. MGM has been guilty of teaching-a-lesson shorts before, but this!?
Oh, well, even the worst films have at least ONE good moment and here it is: at the end, the kids are proud to be on the straight and narrow, when all of a sudden, they hear a "police siren" headed their way, and they all run; it turned out to be a siren on a boy's bicycle zipping by. That was pretty funny (though not as funny as the kids' forced laughter would indicate).
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