LITTLE RED WAGON – The Review
A pint-size philanthropist dedicates his life to helping children rendered homeless by Hurricane Charley and learns that you can’t put a price tag on life’s greatest gifts in LITTLE RED WAGON, an inspirational drama based on actual events. Dejected at the images of families whose lives were uprooted by the disaster, 8-year old Zach Bonner uses his trusty wagon to collect essential items that will help them get back on their feet. When the media spotlight’s Zach’s benevolent endeavors, the selfless kid seizes the opportunity to launch his own charity, called the Little Red Wagon Foundation (http://www.littleredwagonfoundation.com/). Zach vows to draw attention to the plight of homeless children by embarking on a cross country walk. Despite his mother’s trepidations about the journey and his teenage sister’s growing resentment over being stuck at the center of a media circus, Zach sets out on a journey that will transform not just his own life, but also the lives of everyone he encounters.
Yikes! If this sounds gooey, it is and LITTLE RED WAGON is indeed the type of wholesome, inspirational cheese that usually has me adjusting my insulin pump. But this film is also an example of how good acting, directing, and writing can transcend sugar-coated sentiment, and if you can check you cynicism at the door, it’s a fairly decent movie. Director David Anspaugh previously helmed the similarly uplifting sports films HOOSIERS and RUDY and is a pro at lifting these saccharine elements out of their TV-level trap. If Zach’s story was the whole movie it might be a bit much, but there’s a sizeable subplot about a young boy and his mother (Dylan Matzke and a very effective Frances O’Connor) who donate to Zach at first, but soon find themselves without a roof over their heads when she loses her job and is unable to find steady employment. We watch this duo move from their house to a homeless shelter, then get to such a low point that they’re digging through dumpsters for food. It’s their story that is full of grief and rage and the lure of despair. It’s a heavy juxtaposition with Zack’s sunny story, which frankly lacks any conflict (aside from an older sister who whines that Zack is getting all the attention), but it adds grit and makes the film seem more real. Chandler Canterbury displays a comfortable naturalness as Zack, and Anna Gunn (from Breaking Bad) is good as his mom. There’s not a lot of meat on LITTLE RED WAGON but you have to applaud Zach’s faith and spirit. If you approach it as the feel-good true story it is and embrace its life-affirming spiritual lessons, you may just enjoy LITTLE RED WAGON.
2 1/2 of 5 Stars
LITTLE RED WAGON opens in St. Louis today exclusively at Wehrenberg’s Ronnies Cinema