Little Men (VHS) ~ Mariel Hemingway (actor) Cover Art

Little Men (VHS)

Mariel Hemingway (actor), Chris Sarandon (actor) and Rodney Gibbons (director)

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Mariel Hemingway's stern but upstanding schoolmarm Jo Bhaer epitomizes the mood of Little Men, the video version of Louisa May Alcott's under-celebrated sequel to Little Women. Levity levels hit an all-time low here: it's 1871 Boston, and hard knocks aren't hard to come by, particularly if you're an orphan boy like Nat and his street-smart buddy Dan. The lucky few, Nat among them, find benefactors and land at Plumfield, the school set up by Jo and her husband, Fritz (Chris Sarandon). All is apple-pure at Plumfield--mischief is at its maximum during Saturday-night pillow fights. But then the wayward Dan descends on the Bhaers' doorstep, setting in motion a string of small catastrophes; one boy is bullied into boxing lessons, another is challenged to a daredevil drop-the-knife stunt. Dan gets the boot after a late-night poker game (complete with stolen stogies he arranges for) leads to a fire. He's sent to a stricter school, but his heart's still at Plumfield, and, though he's been banned, that's where he returns. Jo's arms are open but Fritz is reluctant. Only when Dan displays genuine valor by taking the rap for a theft blamed on the innocent Nat is Jo's faith validated; Dan is rewarded with a permanent place at Plumfield, and whatever street-urchin associations still surround him are soon socked away in the history books. As family entertainment goes, Little Men scores major points for warmth and wholesomeness; what it lacks in lightheartedness is made up for in period-piece charm and strong performances. --Tammy La Gorce

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