When a film strikes a chord deep within you, Iâ€™m talking about when it really speaks to you on a profound level, itâ€™s indescribable. Everyone has a film that holds a special place in their heart, regardless of the quality or popularity of it. If it means something to you, thatâ€™s all that matters.
But as you get older, something happens. You begin to forget the sort of magic that certain movies create within you. And soon, the film that you could watch everyday, the one you could watch without ever getting tired of it, changes. You begin to notice the flaws and wonder why you even liked it in the first place. We grow up so, naturally, our tastes change. We canâ€™t do anything about that. But what we can do is look back at those films, forget whateverâ€™s bothering us in this hectic day and age and remember a time before everything got so serious.
Every week, Long Lost Cinema presents a film that you may have forgotten; for no particular reason, aside from the fact that life simply got in the way. Cult flicks, forgotten classics, guilty pleasures- theyâ€™re all here for your nostalgic pleasure.
Today, we rediscover 1989â€™s Little Monsters.
Before I begin, Iâ€™ll let you in on a little secret: when I was five I demanded that everyone refer to me as â€œMauriceâ€ for well over a month. Want to know why? Because around that time I came across a monster, a really cool guy, named Maurice. And damn it if I couldnâ€™t be as cool as him. All of this happened after I watched Little Monsters, a film that stands the test of time based solely on the fact that the filmmakers were trying to have as much fun as possible. And they succeeded.
It tells the tale of new kid in town Brian (played by child star Fred Savage) and how he meets Maurice, the monster living under his younger brotherâ€™s bed, who introduces him to the wondrous world of monsters. His little brat of a brother was telling the truth after all, there really were monsters under the bed! Of course, not everything is as it appears, forcing Brian and Maurice to battle the evil Boy. At stake? Brianâ€™s little brother Eric, whom Boy wants to be friends with. And turn into a monster.
At its heart, the film is a simple one about a boy, an outsider, who doesnâ€™t fit in and doesnâ€™t really want to make new friends. But when that potential new friend turns out to be a monsterâ€¦ all bets are off. Iâ€™ll admit, the film is a little sloppy in the beginning; at that point, weâ€™re still getting to know the characters. Brian comes off as being a little snotty and his parents are portrayed the way they commonly were back in 80â€™s and 90â€™s films- absent and not really understanding.
But once Maurice appears, Brianâ€™s world (and the film itself) is turned upside down. As the almost childlike Maurice, Howie Mandel creates a memorable character that anyone (young or old) would want to be friends with. Whenever heâ€™s onscreen, he demands attention and thatâ€™s not just because heâ€™s covered in vibrant blue make-up and horns. In these types of films, the main character always befriends someone who they wish they could be; take your pick from the brain, the jock or the coolest kid on the block. By having Brian befriend a monster who isnâ€™t scary, but rather goofy and child-like himself, the story is injected with a strong dose of fantasy (the monster aspect) and reality (what it means to be a true friend).
Similar to last weekâ€™s Drop Dead Fred, Little Monsters uses universal themes to drive the story home and I find it holds up surprisingly well because of that. Most of the special effects are practical which, in my eyes, rarely age in a negative sense. The world of the monsters is vibrant and full of life; there is so much happening on the screen that your eyes barely have enough time to take it all in.
Watching Little Monsters now, I realize how it would be almost impossible for a film like this to be released presently without any sort of censorship, which is why I love the late 80â€™s and early 90â€™s- childrenâ€™s films didnâ€™t talk down to kids or adults like most of them do today. Much like the real world, there are bad creatures in the monster world. The film takes a serious turn when Eric is kidnapped and dragged into the monster world by Boy and his thug Snik. The reason being, all monsters are former children who stayed in the monster world for too long and Boy wanted Brian to turn into one and be his playmate. Brianâ€™s friendship is put to the test when he realizes that Maurice only befriended him so that he can bring him to Boy. Maurice is beaten, Brian feels betrayed and Eric is tortured (in a PG sense), which leads to the big showdown at the end. For a kidâ€™s film, pretty serious stuff, Iâ€™d say.
Most of the frightening material is given to the character of Boy, played by the great Frank Whaley, the â€œBig Kahuna Burgerâ€ guy in Pulp Fiction. Here, he was cast for his young looks to portray a creature dressed in a schoolboy uniform and a young manâ€™s skin. You donâ€™t really see Boy for what he is until the very end; but when you do, think of the most memorable scenes from Poltergeist and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Is the film perfect? Not even close. But it isnâ€™t trying to be either. Itâ€™s a unique take on the friendship tale thatâ€™s been told time and time again. Obviously, the monsters are much more interesting than the humans, but that goes without saying. Regardless of the number of effects, the emotional core of the film is the friendship between Brian and Maurice. The ending is heartbreaking, yet true to life. It really feels like they had a friendship that was put to the test.
You know, itâ€™s funny. Nowadays people see Howie Mandel as the host of Deal or No Deal or even the voice of Bobby Generic in the classic cartoon Bobbyâ€™s World. Me, I remember him as the voice of Gizmo in Gremlins and the coolest guy I wish I actually knew, Maurice. But as we get older, the interesting thing is, we discover we all have a Maurice in our lives. For that reason alone, Little Monsters deserves to be remembered.
In next weekâ€™s installment of Long Lost Cinema, we rediscover Nothing But Trouble.