tek's rating:

Little Spies, on ABC
IMDb; TV Tropes; YouTube

I liked this when I was a kid, and over the years my feeling of nostalgia for the movie has grown. So I wish it would come out on DVD, but I don't think that'll ever happen. It's on YouTube, so I watched it again to work on this review, but the quality isn't very good. However, I feel like the movie itself holds up surprisingly well.

It starts with a dog catcher (or "canine technician") named Bernie losing a dog. Later, the dog is pursued by some kids called the "Water Street Gang," who are working for Bernie. The dog runs into a movie theater, where another group of kids are watching a movie, and they rescue the dog, and take it back to the cellar of Jason's house. He's like the main character in the movie. He wants to prove to his parents that he's responsible enough to take care of a dog, ever since... something happened to his old dog, Norton. But they don't think he's ready for another dog. So he keeps it a secret from them, but he shows it to his little sister, Julie (played by Candace Cameron, before she became famous for Full House). Meanwhile, Jason's friends are concerned that the Water Street Gang are going to want revenge for saving the dog from them.

Jason's club also includes Clint (played by Jason Hervey of The Wonder Years), Clarence, and Wendell. And Clint invited this girl named Kristi (who had a crush on Jason) to join, though Jason was awfully nervous around her (sometimes). Anyway, as her initiation, they make her take a picture of a local 'old scary guy' called "The Hermit" (played by Mickey Rooney). And they make the dog their mascot (though they can't agree on what to name it). Meanwhile, Wendell witnesses the Water Street Gang selling dogs to Bernie, but they catch him spying, and beat him up.

Later, Jason's parents tell him he can have a new dog, after all, so he's excited. But that night, one of the Water Street Gang steals the dog. So the next day, the kids go out looking for him, and putting up posters. Then they go to Wendell's house, and he tells them what he saw. They go to the Puppy Town Kennel to look for their dog, but the Kennel Master (played by James Tolkan) tells them the dog has rabies, and is going to be destroyed. (This is a blatant lie, but he has a grudge against the dog, for having bitten him- the first dog ever to do so- before Bernie originally lost it.) Jason brings his father, but he ends up believing the Kennel Master's story. So Jason decides that he and his friends should bust the dog out of the kennel before it can be destroyed (which is scheduled for the next Monday). They plan to rescue the dog on Saturday night, which gives them six days to prepare for the mission. (They apparently start planning the mission on a Sunday, so... I'm not sure why the Monday the Kennel Master mentioned wasn't actually the day after that, but whatever.)

One problem to overcome is that to get to the kennel, they'll have to cross Water Street turf, which is especially scary for Wendell. Anyway, Jason puts Clint and Kristi in charge of physical training. I found Kristi's training particularly memorable; basically it's aerobics done to "We Got the Beat" by the Go-Gos (this is the first place I ever heard that song). Clint's training was a more military-themed obstacle course. Then, Clarence uses his model helicopter to take surveillance photos of the kennel. It's clear security is too tight, so Jason recruits a science nerd named Melvin to help them blind the cameras with a smoke bomb. (His line "a tad too much potassium, I think," is something I've always found memorable.) Melvin says they'll need to get blueprints for the building, and while they're at the city archives, Clint discovers an old newspaper article about a retired war hero named James Turner- aka, the Hermit. So they all go to him to ask for help in planning their mission. And he turns out to be pretty cool.

Of course, things don't go exactly as planned, and they end up getting captured by the Water Street Gang. But Clarence manages to free himself and his friends using his RC helicopter again. (It was a highly improbable rescue, but it led to probably my favorite line of the movie. Which I won't spoil. But I've always remembered it.) They still have more challenges to get past before they even reach the kennel, and once there, their problems only escalate. But eventually... well, there's a happy ending. I don't want to spoil any more of the plot.

Anyway... the movie's fairly ridiculous, and it's fully of totally implausible stuff. And some of the humor is of a type that simultaneously induces cringing and smirking. And Wendell is perhaps a bit of a stereotype... the fat kid as comic relief. But in spite of being kind of weird, he's actually... not as dumb as he seems, and kind of heroic. And while Clarence easily could have been just a token black kid- and I do feel like he didn't get enough lines- he was fairly important, and I thought he was the funniest character in the movie. And really, the whole movie was kind of cheesy, but funny, and all the kids were kinda likable characters. Oh, and I always thought Kristi was pretty cute. And... I guess the movie had some sort of serious aspects. And a ton of memorable moments and lines. (Way more than the few things I've already called memorable. Seriously.) And, I dunno, it was just fun. And that's all I can think to say.


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