25 February 2010 | Emberweave
Strange Our Gang Oddity
The film starts with promise because there is more interaction between Spanky and Buckwheat, but as the film progresses, the two boys have fewer scenes together. This slows the pace considerably. Billie "Buckwheat" Thomas gives a very strong performance in his early scenes. When he is left behind on the riverboat, his fear and abandonment are palpable and his tears are truly heartbreaking. When he goes from man to man asking for help and is repeatedly rejected the viewer really begins to wonder if this is a comedy or not. Watching a children's birthday party through a picket fence is another moving moment. As another reviewer mentioned, I was also worried about the big dog choking on chicken bones! Once Spanky and Buckwheat are in Marshall Valiant's home, Spanky tends to interact mainly with the adults and the chemistry of the children is essentially lost.
The Old South/Huck Finn-type setting really doesn't do much for the plot except allow the children to be out of doors a great deal. Ralph Morgan is the most engaging adult, but then the other roles really don't have much substance to them. Louise Beavers manages some funny moments with a Yankee soldier towards the end.
The villains aren't really villainous enough and the lovers not intense enough. Yet, I do think it's worth viewing if you're an Our Gang enthusiast, if for no other reason that the odd curiosity of the whole piece. I give it seven stars because, while not a great movie, it kept me engaged the whole time and curious as to what would happen next.