Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Little Men (1998)


I didn't know anything about the story before but when I saw this film on Netflix I was so excited!
It was one of those films I watched once by myself and then liked so much I convinced my sister that she had to watch it with me. She liked it a lot too!

Based on Louisa May Alcott's sequel to Little Women, Little Men (1998) is a fun family film. It's a nice companion piece to Little Women (1994) although they weren't made to be watched together. It's wonderful to find new adaptations of Louisa May Alcott's works!


John Brooke helps Nat Blake
Story: Young Nat Blake earns his living as a street musician in Boston after his father dies. One day he is falsely accused of theft after his friend Dan pick-pockets a gentlemen's wallet. Mr. John Brooke sees the commotion and offers to pay his way at Plumfield School, a boarding school run by his sister-in-law, instead of the police sending him to jail. Shy and quiet Nat fears the school will be strict by when he meets Fritz and Jo (March) Bhaer - who liked to be called "Father and Mother Bhaer" - and the other students he soon feels right at home. As winter nears Nat's friend Dan shows up at Plumfield and is taken in but his streetwise ways soon land him and the boys who follow him into more serious trouble. There are many lessons for Nat and the other students to learn about honesty, friendship and compassion.  

Opening Scene
Script: Not knowing the story I read the Wikipedia page for Little Men and compared the two. It seems they did make a few changes from the book mainly that Amy and Laurie, their daughter Bess and Meg's younger daughter Josie do not appear in this film. Jo and Fritz only have one son Teddy, aka "Little Bhaer", instead of two sons (Rob and Teddy) like in the book and there's only two servants at Plumfield instead of three. Otherwise the general plot of the story seems to be the same and the characters of the boys seem similar. The language used in this film sounds like it might be updated and changed a bit from the original. A narrator starts and ends the story and adds voice over bits in between some scenes, it's nice because it helps the viewer to remember this is from a classic book.

Bhaers receive news Nat is coming
Costumes: Pretty simple and homespun looking but fits well with the late 1800's time period. The ladies' dresses are quite plain but there are some nice fabrics and small jewelry pieces worn. The boys have some very handsome coats, scarves, hats and indoor wear as well. Simple costumes but effective in communicating the time period and lifestyle of the characters.

Plumfield in Autumn
Scenery: Filmed entirely in Montréal, Québec, Canada there is some of the New England charm missing but not too much that you'd notice. One street of "Boston" is shown for one scene. The rest of the film takes place at Plumfield house, barns, school room and out buildings. It is Autumn when Nat arrives there and the huge farmhouse is surrounded by gorgeous foliage! Toward the end of the film there is a great snowfall and it's wonderful to see the kids running and playing in the snow. I think the house could have been a bit more grand and perhaps not so secluded looking (it did sort of look like a farm in the middle of nowhere) but overall it was a great location for filming.

Nat plays the fiddle for Jo, Fritz and Franz
Music: Sort of matched the style of music used in Little Women (1994) thought not quite as grand or memorable. There are a couple dances played on the fiddle by Nat and Dan sings Amazing Grace with the others at the end of the film.

My music video with songs from Little Men (1998) with screencaps I made from the film. Listen to the Opening Theme, Nat Plays the Fiddle, Dan Sings Amazing Grace and the End Titles. You can briefly hear Chris Sarandon as Fritz Bhaer singing in Amazing Grace, he has a very nice voice!

Stuffy, Daisy, Demi and Tommy
Characters & Actors: Many Canadian actors but some American as well make for a good mix.

  • Michael Caloz as Nat Blake - Nat is a bit shy and skeptical when he first comes to Plumfield but everyone gives him such a warm welcome. Michael Caloz's bright brown eyes and sweet manner are perfect for Nat and made me like the character right away! Surprisingly Michael did the voice of pesky sister D.W. in the PBS animated TV show Arthur!
  • Mariel Hemingway as Jo Bhaer - While blond haired Mariel doesn't really look like my idea of Jo (she has "chestnut" hair in book doesn't she?) she does present a kind and caring character who loves her students and family very much and tries to take on the world. She took some getting used to but I liked her for the most part. Mariel Hemingway is the granddaughter of famous author Ernest Hemingway and was given the name Mariel after one of his favorite places to vacation.
  • Chris Sarandon as Fritz Bhaer - I'm not a huge fan of the Jo/Professor Bhaer match up in the book and don't really like most of the film versions I've seen of him. However Chris Sarandon as Fritz Bhaer really stands out as one of the main reasons I love this film. The character becomes this strong but compassionate character who love and supports his wife and directs their students with a firm but caring hand. You might recognize Chris Sarandon as Prince Humperdinck in The Princess Bride or as Charles Darnay / Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities (1980) but this is by far my favorite role of his.

  • Ben Cook as Dan - Nat's homeless friend who finds his way to Plumfield where the Bhaers take him in. Ben Cook does a great job of portraying the struggle going on in Dan where he wants to be loved and have a home but also leads the other boys into mischief. Jo doesn't give up on him and he eventually finds his place in their family set. Road to Avonlea fans fight possibly recognize Ben Cook from the Season 7 episode From Away where he played Ian McNulty.
  • Serge Houde as John Brooke & Emma Campbell as Meg Brooke - John Brooke finds Nat on the streets of Boston and pays his way to Plumfield. John and Meg come for a visit later in the series where it becomes evident that John is not in the best of health. I didn't really like these actors in the roles, they seemed too old and a bit contrived to me, but they were nice enough.
  • Tyler Hynes as Demi Brooke & Julia Garland as Daisy Brooke - John and Meg's twins who live and go to school at Plumfield with their aunt and uncle. They are the first to welcome Nat when he arrives and are very good tempered kids. Demi has odd hair but seems quite scholarly while Daisy has long pretty hair and is very domestic and sweet. Julia Garland didn't do much acting after this role but this was Tyler Hynes' first role and he's gone on to many more film and television roles (and he has great hair now, haha!).  
  • Gabrielle Boni as Nan Harding - Nan comes to Plumfield after her mother dies and is to be a companion for Daisy. Nan is even more of a tomboy than Jo was at her age and soon earns the boys respect by beating them at baseball. I wish Nan had been introduced sooner in the film because she's such a fun character! Actress Gabrielle Boni looked very familiar to me and then it all made sense when I found out she played Rebecca Graham in the Wind At My Back TV series. Love her red hair and freckles!
  • Mickey Toft as Teddy "Little Bear" Bhaer - Teddy is Fritz and Jo's little five-year-old son who joins in with activities with the other boys. He doesn't have very many speaking lines but Mickey Toft steals the show by being so darn cute! (I mean just look at that grin!) He likes Dan a lot and Dan in return is very kind to him. 
  • Ricky Mabe as Tommy Bangs - Tommy is one of the first friends that Nat makes at Plumfield. He and Nat go into business keeping chickens and selling the eggs. One of my favorites of the boys, he has a really good heart.
  • David Deveau as George "Stuffy" Cole - Stuffy is comical and the lines he has are a lot of fun. 
  • Michael Yarmush as Emil - Fancies himself a pirate, often wearing an eye patch, and says his rather is a sea captain. This is different than in the book where Emil and Franz are Professor Bhaer's nephews.
  • B.J. McLellan as Jack Ford - Another of the students but with a slightly vengeful streak. 
  • Justin Bradley as Adolphus "Dolly" Pettinghill - He's introduced as a student but I can't remember what he looks like. His name is really neat though!
  • Mathew Mackay as Franz - Professor Bhaer's nephew who helps with the teaching. He's in a few scenes and does very well.
  • Kathleen Fee as Molly & Narrator - Molly is the housekeeper who takes care of everyone. Kathleen Fee also did the narrating parts throughout the film.
  • James Bradford as Silas - Works with the animals and is a bit of a handyman. He doesn't like Dan's streetwise ways but admires his way with horses.
Father and Mother Bhaer
My Thoughts: First of all, this film is such fun! It has a very sweet story and the characters are dear to us even if the actors don't exactly fit them in looks. Virtues such as honesty, compassion, kindness and generosity are valued. The boys at Plumfield have a lot to learn but they also have a lot of fun.
But the best part of this film for me was getting to see Jo March and Fritz Bhaer as they work together and care for their "family". I'm one of those who couldn't quite reconcile Jo marrying the Professor (and Laurie marrying Amy is so weird!) but the way they are presented in this film is just perfect! They are equals who love each other and care deeply about their family and the students at Plumfield. Fritz Bhaer's compassion really stands out as he teaches the boys in classes and through life lessons. The sort of education the Bhaers provide is caring and inspires the boys to be good and strive to be better and kinder.
Nat is also a favorite character for me, it's interesting to see the story unfold through his eyes and see him put into practice the lessons he is taught. The ending scene is a bit cheesy but this film overall is just wonderful and I'd watch it again in a heartbeat! Watching this film really made me want to read the book and I will, someday...

Dan and Nat
My Recommendations: This film is rated PG-13 for some minor scary scenes such as fire, a cut foot, and one scene where a cigar and a bottle of beer are used by the boys who are see the error of their way after that.. The word "damn" is also used several times by the boys.  I really don't see why this film was given the PG-13 rating because there is nothing really objectionable for families today and I would highly recommend it as a family film. If you like Little Women (1994), the Anne of Green Gables films or the Road to Avonlea (TV series) then you will love Little Men (1998)!

Have you seen Little Men (1998)? What did you think of it?

Have you read Little Men? What about Jo's Boys?

Are you a fan of the Jo/Professor Bhaer match up?












~*~
Old-Fashioned Charm
This is my 2nd film review for the Period Drama Challenge going on now!

5 comments:

Charity U said...

I've wanted to see this for a while, but been nervous since Chris Sarandon is in it...he's such an "interesting" Prince H that I don't know if I'd like him as Professor Bhaer -- never pictured him as that. But, now that you say it's good...maybe someday I'll get around to watching it. :) Oh, btw...it's Plumfield not Plumbfield. Pet peeve. ;)

You've never read the books? That IS sad. Edit that: you've never read this particular book (or so I assume). That's a serious gap in your education in classic lit...okay, so the first book is the best, but the other two (LM and JB) are good as well. :) Give them a try someday, by all means!

Hamlette said...

I have read "Little Men" at least three times as often as "Little Women" -- it has long been one of my favorite classics! But I've never seen a movie version, and this one looks lovely, so I'll have to hunt it down. Thanks!

Miss Margaret Dashwood said...

Hi Miss Laurie, I am a big fan of your blog and have tagged you @ my blog, An Accomplished Young Lady.

Anna Grace said...

I love this movie! It was like my all time favorites until a few years ago. I've read the book twice and after that I didn't quite like it quite as much? I LOVE the proffessor though! I think Prince Humperdinck {From The Princess Bride} did an exceptional job! :) Hurrah for him!

After reading the book, I can safely say that the kid who is closest to himself in the book is Dan. Whoever the actor is who played him did a really good job! {Granted, I may be a bit biased seeing as he and Demi were my two favorite characters from the book}

um, I don't know where I'm really going with this post... Oh yes! I remember seeing last month on Netflix that this was rated PG-13 and I went "Whaaaaaaaat?" According to IMDB it's PG, I believe. Yeah. No way it's PG-13..... O.o *giggle*

Anyway, read the book -- it's WAY better than Little Woman...

~Anna

Elisa said...

I saw this for a few minutes on some odd channel on TV awhile back.

There was a short lived TV series by the same name for a time in the late '90s.

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