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Little Men (1998)

PG | | Drama | 8 May 1998 (USA)
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1871 New England. Two-week orphaned preteen Nat Blake, in his new circumstance, has been living on the streets of Boston with his more streetwise friend, fourteen year old Dan, who looks ... See full summary »

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(screenplay), (novel)
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1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Kathleen Fee ... Narrator / Molly
Michael Caloz ... Nat Blake
... Jo Bhaer
... Dan
... Tommy Bangs
... Fritz Bhaer
Gabrielle Boni ... Nan Harding
Michael Yarmush ... Emil
... Demi Brooke
B.J. McLellan ... Jack Ford
... Franz
Julia Garland ... Daisy Brooke
... John Brooke
... Meg Brooke
James Bradford ... Silas Blake
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Storyline

1871 New England. Two-week orphaned preteen Nat Blake, in his new circumstance, has been living on the streets of Boston with his more streetwise friend, fourteen year old Dan, who looks after Nat and who survives by his cunning and by stealing. Due to an event of living on the streets, Nat gets a benefactor in the form of John Brooke who pays for his schooling at Plumfield, a boys boarding school in the country owned and operated by John's sister-in-law and her husband, Jo and Fritz Bhaer. Although each being different in the way they exact their discipline, both the Bhaers believe that treating the boys with compassion and treating them as boys will result in them being better people than if they were strict disciplinarians. Nat goes through some adjustment of needing to lie to survive on the street to life at Plumfield, but ultimately finds that that different life is one to which he truly wants and that the changes he has to make do make him a better person. Nat's stay at ... Written by Huggo

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Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for mild thematic elements and brief language | See all certifications »

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Release Date:

8 May 1998 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Louisa May Alcott's Little Men  »

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Did You Know?

Trivia

Louisa May Alcott's novel has been adapted on two previous occasions: directed by Phil Rosen in 1934, and directed by Norman Z. McLeod in 1940. See more »

Quotes

Nat Blake: [runs in the barn] Dan! There you are... I thought you ran away again.
Dan: [gives him a cold stare] Would've it mattered?
[Nat nods his head]
Dan: Sure haven't been acting like it.
Nat Blake: What's that supposed to mean?
Dan: [angirly] You fit right in! With Tommy and the rest of the green-bellies! You even got yourself a girly...
Nat Blake: Nan?
Dan: You don't need me anymore... Nobody in this rat hole does.
Nat Blake: Have you been crying?
Dan: [gets upest, and walks toward Nat, Nat backs away] I don't cry, you hear me! Nothing and nobody makes me cry!...
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Connections

Follows Little Women (1994) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Much improved over the 1940 RKO film, though a long way from perfect
19 June 2016 | by See all my reviews

As said in my review for the 1940 RKO film, 'Little Men' is a charming, entertaining and heart-warming book. If you like the more popular 'Little Women' and 'Good Wives', 'Little Men' won't disappoint as it does have much of the ingredients that make those two books so good.

The main reason why there is a personal preference towards the other two is to do with that 'Little Women' and 'Good Wives' are stories I've known and loved since childhood whereas 'Little Men' was introduced to me quite some years later.

So far this reviewer has only seen two adaptations, this and the 1940 film, and while this does have flaws it is the far superior adaptation and film. Sure there are omissions, changes and merging of characters, the characters' personalities are not quite as interesting and it doesn't really convey the essence of the book, but there is much more of the original story and spirit here whereas the earlier adaptation, which was terrible as an adaptation and mediocre at best on its own merits, was almost unrecognisable.

'Little Men' looks very nice, simply but cleanly and beautifully photographed with elegant and evocative costumes, sets and scenery. The music score is understated, lilting and soothing, never overbearing, too low-key or inappropriately jaunty. There is much more of the gentle tone, subtle social commentary, charm, poignancy without being too maudlin and gentle humour without being corny or too slapstick-oriented than in the 1940 film, though there are parts that are a little stilted and don't flow as well as they could have done.

Much of the story is wholesome and charming, with a very heart-warming ending. There are a couple of crucial scenes, like the death of John Brooke, that don't have the impact and are clumsily done, and there is a choppiness and skippy nature to the storytelling giving a sense of incompleteness. The film tries to solve this by getting narration to fill in the gaps, but the narration is rather unnecessary and distractingly over-explains at times.

With the acting, some are better than others. The children fare far better than the adults, with the standouts being Michael Colaz and particularly Ben Cook, who is superb and the best thing about the film. The adult actors are disadvantaged by the adult characters being too much in the background and underwritten. Chris Sarandon is a bit too rough and stern as Bhaer, though admittedly it is preferable to having Bhaer played stiffly like he has been. More problematic is a far too bland and subdued Mariel Hemingway as Jo, who has lost her spirit, tomboy-ish charm and spunk and reduced to a paper-thin cut-out.

All in all, a long way from perfect but watchable. As an adaptation, it's still less than ideal but it's much better than the 1940 film. 6/10 Bethany Cox


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