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Stock 'Little Giants' Tackles Inequity in Winning Formula

October 27, 1994|LYNN SMITH | Lynn Smith is a staff writer for the Times' Life & Style section.

In "Little Giants," sibling rivals square off when each coaches a Pee Wee football team, with the Heisman Trophy winner (Ed O'Neill) getting the best and most vicious athletes, and the nerd (Rick Moranis) getting the leftover misfits--the fat, the frail, the girl. Guess who wins? (Rated PG) *

If recent off-field events have tarnished the hit-'em-again, muscle-bound football hero as an ideal, you'd never know it by this movie.

As in other underdog team sports movies aimed at the young or sentimental, the message is a version of "winning isn't everything; it's the only thing." In other words, no matter how weak or unprepared you are, you can knock the stuffing out of the bullies if you just get mad enough.

Judging by the applause and the sniffing among viewers, the wonderful, horrible, kick-butt fantasy endures.

Tim White, 12, recognized the theme has been around.

"It was kind of like David and Goliath," he said. "The big guys kept knocking down the little guys, but they kept coming back."

A football player himself, Tim said the movie was entertaining, but he added, "It was pretty hard to believe."

Likewise, Aaron Faiola, 12, found the movie "user-friendly" but a little phony.

"If it's going to be realistic, it should be realistic," he said. "I didn't think it was very realistic."

Besides, he said, it was ultimately too easy to figure out.

"I didn't try to predict it," he said, "but I knew what was going to happen."

Girls gave the movie an unqualified thumbs up.

Those who played sports said they could relate to the character of Becky, a pubescent tomboy being raised by single dad Danny O'Shea (Moranis). Even though some say she is the best fullback around, she is rejected for the A team by her uncle, Kevin O'Shea (O'Neill), because "girls should be cheerleaders." Indeed, after she develops a crush on the star quarterback, Junior, she trades in her jersey for pompons and a pleated skirt in an effort to appear more feminine.

"I didn't like her becoming a cheerleader," said Tricia Thomes, 13, who sometimes plays flag football. "I thought she should have stayed with it."

Eventually, as we all hoped, Becky helps save the day by getting back in the game, skirt and all.

"That was great," Tricia said. "I loved that part."

Similarly, Elaina Cumbo, an 11-year-old in a Mighty Ducks T-shirt, said, "If my team was losing, and I was a cheerleader, I would do the same thing."

Unlike the boys, she found the movie thoroughly realistic because Becky waffled on what she wanted to do.

"She wanted to like Junior, and she thought he liked girlie girls, which he did."

After the movie, she said she couldn't help but pose a question to her classmates, Tommy Zamacona, 11, and Tim: "I just went up to them and said, 'Do boys like girlie girls or do boys like (tomboys), you know?' I just had an urge to say that."

Their answer: girlie girls.

Said Elaina: "I had a feeling they were going to say that."

Tim said he could see himself taking an athletic girl to the prom. "If they're cute, yeah. If they clipped a little high, no."

The kids also said they liked O'Neill as a gum-snapping egomaniac on the downhill side of his Heisman.

"He wasn't a loser like in 'Married With Children,' " Tim said. "He was an overachiever who owned his own car lot and drove a really cool Corvette."

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