Friday, February 9, 2018

Little Marines

Little Marines
A.J. Hixon

Steve (Stephan Baker), Noah (Noah Williams), and Chris (Steve Landers Jr.) are fresh out of school for summer vacation, so they embark on a camping trip that they have been planning. After some preparation (mostly playing dress-up), they head out. Along the way, they deal with a dog, a crabby cop, and a sleazy guy trying to sell drugs. They finally make it to their campsite, build a tent, exercise to the song YMCA and generally putter about the trees pretending to be Marines.  Noah has been depressed and keeps having flashbacks to a friend who isn’t along with them for the trip, but why?

There isn’t a plot per se in Little Marines, just a series of events that are loosely strung together. In this way, it does accurately recreate the endless feeling of summer vacation as a kid. The emphasis here is on the endless part. There is an attempt to create just the slightest edge of danger with the inclusion of a cop, a drug dealer, a bully with a paintball gun and that perennial childhood film villain... cancer. This all could work if the kids were painted as anything less than perfect flag-waving Americans, but they aren’t, so it just feels out of place.

Taxi Driver 2: The Early Years
The three main actors are inexperienced but the script doesn’t help them one bit. The only real stand-out character in the bunch is Stevie who plays the most gung-ho goofball of them. He shaves his head, fails at things, and gets (marginally) the best lines. Chris and Noah are too bland and straight-laced to of much interest. Even Noah’s mysterious flashbacks that later reveal a recently dead friend don’t give him much depth.

A run-in with a drug dealer driving a Corvette feels like it came straight out of the 1980s ‘Just Say No’ playbook. I half expected this element to come back around near the end and have the kids face off against this guy or get him arrested, but that’s far too ambitious a plot development for Little Marines. Instead, we’re given a paintball assault by a fellow named Snake (Steven Brazil), which allows the boys something vaguely Marine-esque to do near the end of the movie. In the malfunctioning world of Little Marines, this is most praise I can give it.

No one told me this was a crossover with Nail Gun Massacre (1985).
Little Marines feels like what would happen if Stand By Me (1986) was made for $10 by someone who had never lived on Earth. Little Marines isn’t funny or dramatic, it is just aimlessly weird. Throw in some weird jingoistic overtones to the whole thing and you end up with a confounding yet horrifically watchable mess of a film. This is the magic of this era of home video, what would have probably been a half-assed YouTube video now, was at the time a full-fledged production despite every reason for it to not exist at all.

What? There’s a sequel?

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