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Film / Little Giants

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Little Giants is a 1994 family sports comedy starring Rick Moranis and Ed O'Neill.

This is the story of two brothers, Kevin (O'Neill) and Danny (Moranis) O'Shea. One was blessed with the kind of raw football talent given to those who were born to bask in gridiron glory. The other... not so much. As the two grew up and made families of their own, Danny pretty much literally stood in the shadow of Kevin's legacy, with the town watertower looming over the city proudly displaying "Home of Kevin O'Shea."

When Kevin begins starting a pee-wee football team, he cuts several underperforming kids, including Danny's daughter Becky O'Shea (Shawna Waldron) who was one of the best at the tryout and was cut for being a girl. When the Cowboys try to bully the underdogs, Becky comes to their rescue and improvises the thought that they're forming their own team, coached by her dad. While both Danny and Kevin are incredulous at the idea, Kevin's condescension gets to Danny, and he and Becky decide to actually do it. However, league rules state a town can only have one team, so the two agree for their teams, Kevin's Cowboys and Danny's Little Giants, to play a game to decide who shall be the town's official team.

No relation to the Abbott and Costello film Little Giant, nor to anyone from Haikyuu!!, or the trope Large Runt.

Little Tropes:

  • 10-Minute Retirement: Becky decides to quit football and become a cheerleader in the hope that Junior will like her better that way. She comes back when Spike hits Junior after the whistle.
  • Absurdly High-Stakes Game: Danny and Kevin make it into one by putting their businesses on the line: Danny's gas station versus Kevin's car dealership.
  • Actor Allusion: This movie isn't the first time that Ed O'Neil played a football star. In fact, Kevin O'Shea is pretty much what Al Bundy may have been if he achieved his football dreams — he's an accomplished professional football player, has a beautiful wife with adoring kids, is hailed as a town hero, runs a successful car dealership, and the accomplishments he likes to boast about are actually meaningful.
  • All Guys Want Cheerleaders: Kevin exploits this to convince Becky to become a cheerleader instead of a player in order to get Junior's attention.
  • Amazon Chaser: Junior likes Becky because she's a football player.
    Junior: You're cool. You're the Icebox. You're the only person I've met that can beat up my dad.
  • Arc Words: "One time."
  • Artistic License – Sports:
    • Kevin and Danny are explicitly violating quite a few rules for the Pop Warner league. Pop Warner bans tryouts. All kids who show up must make the team up to the limit of 35. Cuts can't be made unless for very specific reasons (bullying, being forced to play, academic failure).
    • Spike seems way too large to be able to play. Pop Warner has weight limits in addition to age category.
    • Spike's blatant attack on Junior should have seen him ejected immediately even in the NFL, much less a Peewee game, not to mention probably charged with assault.
    • Nubie is too young to be a trainee coach. Age requirement is 16.
    • It's a wonder why the referee was even in the game considering what he ignored. He explicitly says "no penalty" after Spike stomps another player into the ground repeatedly. He later watches Spike shove another player to the ground and doesn't even do anything even though that should have gotten him immediately ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct.
  • Awakening the Sleeping Giant: Becky removes herself from playing the final game to be a cheerleader, however when Junior is purposefully injured to remove him from playing, she drops her pom-poms and dons her football gear.
  • Berserk Button: Do NOT talk about Jake's momma, you will NOT like him when he is angry. After one rough play Jake is nursing his arm and a Cowboy taunts him asking if he wants his momma. On the very next play a VERY incensed Jake proceeds to tackle the much larger than him kid so hard he literally knocks him on his ass.
  • Big Game: Happens exactly as described when the Giants take on the Cowboys.
  • Black and Nerdy: The lone black player on the Little Giants simply can't catch the ball... but he's considered weak because of it. He later gets better by imagining the ball as a roll of toilet paper, which he practiced with to help improve his game.
  • Cameo Cluster: NFL coaches and players including Hall of Famers John Madden, Emmitt Smith, Bruce Smith, and Tim Brown arrive on a bus to teach the Little Giants about football and inspire them to believe they can win.
  • Character Catchphrase: "You'll thank me tomorrow". Kevin not only says this to people who are displeased by his decisions but also uses it as a motto for his car dealership.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Jake. He scores the winning touchdown for the team.
  • Chick Magnet: Devon Sawa's character Junior Floyd attracts every girl in this film, allegedly even the older ones. Becky becomes a cheerleader, thinking he'll notice her more.
  • Contrast Montage: Comparing the Giants, a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits who have a coach that clearly doesn't know what he's doing, to the Cowboys, a football-bred team with a champion coach...who can get his kids to run out a window for him.
  • Daddy Didn't Show: Played with with Johnny's dad, who is seen going on at least two business trips in the two weeks before the game. Ultimately averted when he shows up for the game, causing Johnny to dodge the entire Cowboys team to hug him in the end zone.
  • David Versus Goliath: The Giants are a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits that failed the try-outs cobbled together with random kids off the street while the Cowboys are an elite pee-wee team handpicked by Kevin O'Shea.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: After the Giants beat the Cowboys, Danny makes the offer to Kevin to have the two teams merge into one.
  • Did Not Think This Through:
    • Danny thought he could keep Spike and his Dad from finding out he's not the "Coach O'Shea" they're looking for. All Kevin has to do is show up to expose the ruse.
    • Coach Butts pulls up to the Little Giants fundraising car wash in a convertible with the top down and proceeds to insult the entire team to their faces. Did he really think he would get out of there dry?
  • Down to the Last Play: The Annexation of Puerto Rico is the last chance for the Little Giants to pull off a win.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: When Becky sees Junior throwing items into a shopping cart, her reaction is to mutter "What a hunk!" and getting surprised that she likes a boy.
  • Everyone Has Standards: While Kevin O'Shea wants to win the game, he isn't going to stand for Spike purposefully and blatantly injuring another player.
    Mr. Hammersmith: Hey, come on! I thought you wanted to win!
    Kevin: Not like that.
  • Exact Words
    Mr. Hammersmith: "So you're a Heisman Trophy winner?."
    Danny O'Shea: "I said I was Coach O'Shea. I never said I was Kevin."
  • Fake Rabies: Alka-Seltzer tablets were used this way for the purpose of "intimidation".
  • Fan of Underdog: Patty liked Danny despite being the least athletic of the boys playing football in the opening childhood scene. Those feelings did not disappear in the present time.
  • Foe-Tossing Charge: Johnny does a version of this when Becky points out that his often-away-on-business father is in the back of the end zone watching him.
  • Friendly Enemy: Invoked here, as Danny O'Shea and Kevin O'Shea are brothers but they remain friendly to each other despite making a bet on the big game, and Kevin's wife contributes to the fundraiser for Danny's team. Despite his hard views on winning and losing Kevin has standards in playing, such as his reaction to foul play, and he genuinely does love his niece even when she's playing for the opposing team. Danny even cancels the bet in exchange for Kevin fulfilling his childhood promise to Danny of having both their names on the water tower.
  • Groin Attack:
    • During the game, the team's punter runs up for the kick off, but misses and kicks the squatting spiker in the crotch, causing him to fall over in pain.
    • Kevin gets one of these. While running a practice on the second floor of his house, he attempts to show a player what to do by charging his wife (who is holding a mock-up of Becky). She is terrified, screams, and dodges out of the way. He grabs the mock-up, crashes through a window, and ends up straddling a tree branch. He is later seen icing it.
  • Graceful Loser: Spike, surprisingly enough. He spends the entire movie as a Jerk Jock but when he loses he's the first to start clapping for the Little Giants and even goads the others into applauding as well.
  • Hate Sink: The Hammersmiths. Spike is a Jerk Jock who insults his teammates to their faces and is openly sexist to Becky because she's a girl, and his father is exactly the same way and is proud of how his son is turning out, talking him up like some sort of football Tyke Bomb that he's trained to be a football player since before Spike could walk. And they stoop to purposefully injuring Junior to secure their win, something that infuriates even Kevin. Spike does, however, get a small redeeming moment in the end after the Cowboys lose (see Graceful Loser just above), unlike his father (see Sore Loser below).
  • He-Man Woman Hater: Spike is a prepubescent version. In his very first scene with Becky he flat out refuses to play with a girl and from there does nothing make an endless string of sexist comments to her whenever they interact. Becky repeatedly knocking him on his ass during the game only enrages him further.
  • He's Back!: With Kevin’s convincing, Becky drops out of the team and becomes a cheerleader, hoping to impress Junior. It isn’t until Spike purposefully injures Junior to get him out of the game that she throws down her pom-poms, goes into the locker room, and comes back out in her football gear.
  • Hometown Hero: In-universe. How Kevin O'Shea is treated for his success as the head coach of the Pee Wee Cowboys team and due to past college achievements as a player.
  • Ironic Echo: When Danny and Kevin make their wager above, Kevin immediately says "There'll always be a place for you at the full-service pumps." At the end, Kevin asks if Danny will hold him to the bet. Danny seems to relent, but then he says "There'll always be a place for you at Danny O'Shea Chevrolet!"
  • Is the Answer to This Question "Yes"?: When Becky asks Kevin if his daughter likes Junior, Kevin asks if Veronica likes Archie.
  • Jerk Jock: All of the players on the Cowboys team are smug about their greater ability compared to the Giants.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Kevin, with a dash of Affably Evil. He truly loves his brother and his niece, wants to put together a champion football team, and treats his players well. His major flaw is his arrogance and pride — he unapologetically cuts unfit kids from the team and refuses to reconsider, and is personally insulted at the mere idea of Danny putting together a rival team. He also uses underhanded methods (spying on Danny's team during practices) but won't resort to outright cheating, and is infuriated when someone does.
  • Manchild: Mike Hammersmith is a grown man who actively encourages his ten year old son's worst behavior. He goes as far as ordering Spike to injure Junior to take him out of the game when the Little Giants start making a comeback, gets defensive when called out for this by Kevin and sobs into his son's shoulders when they lose — the latter of which causes Spike to tell his Dad to get a grip.
  • Miracle Rally: The "one time" speech at halftime leads to a Little Giants counterattack.
  • Missing Mom: Danny O'Shea's wife left him and Becky.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • When Becky takes the field, she wears #56, which was worn by the actual Giants legendary linebacker Lawrence Taylor. Becky immediately dominates the game on defense, and notably single-handedly drops Spike for a loss at two key moments in the game, including the 4th down goal line stand.
    • Some of the other players wear numbers relevant to the two NFL teams around the time the film was made. For example, the quarterbacks for the teams wore the numbers of the starting quarterbacks of their respective NFL teams at the time the film was filmed: Junior wore (recently-retired) Phil Simms' #11, while the Cowboys quarterback wore Troy Aikman's #8.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Spike Hammersmith.
  • Nice Guy: Danny O'Shea creates the Giants because he wants all of the neighborhood kids to be able to play.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: If not for Spike hitting Junior, Becky wouldn't have returned to the Giants. He even taunted her the moment after the deed was done.
  • No Communities Were Harmed: Set in Urbania, Ohio. Though there is an Urbana, Ohio (no "i"), the name was changed just so the announcer can call the game the "Mania in Urbania".
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • When Junior Floyd is injured by a underhanded hit from Spike, Becky drops her pom poms, dons a uniform and joins in to replace him. Then we see Kevin with this reaction.
      Spike's Dad: Whats that cheerleader doing with a helmet on?
      Kevin: That's no cheerleader, that's my niece, Becky. And she's pissed.
    • The Giants simultaneously freak when Becky walks into the locker room in her cheerleader outfit.
    • There's an amusing "uh-oh" moment when Jake's mom walks him in when they're trying on the football gear.
    • Before the game’s final play, Patty tips Danny off to what Kevin's going to do by reminding him of one of Kevin's proudest moments when he scored the game-winning touchdown in a similar situation. Danny calls time-out and fills the team in; as the Cowboys prepare to hike, the Giants stand and move over at once to cover the side Spike is going to come down. The look on Kevin’s face is priceless.
      Kevin: They know the play… they know the play!
    • At the end of the film on the game's final play, Spike's worried reaction after he celebrates tackling Becky, only for her to reveal the truth to him.
      Spike: No mercy!
      Becky: No ball.
  • One of the Boys: Becky "The Icebox" O'Shea is the only girl at the tryouts. She later laments this status when she thinks it makes her unattractive.
  • Opposing Sports Team: The Cowboys are the "soulless regimen" types, and take the sport way too seriously, but only Spike is really evil.
  • Ordered to Cheat: Spike's dad tells his son to take Junior out. He does after the whistle, only getting a 15 yard penalty for it (and no ejection). Kevin O'Shea severely dresses down Spike's dad afterwards. Kevin points out to Spike's dad as soon as Becky walks on the field that she's pissed because of that.
  • Pet the Dog: When Becky is at her lowest point she asks her Uncle Kevin if he thinks she's pretty. He replies that he thinks she's beautiful.
  • Plucky Girl: Becky O'Shea is rejected from the official team at the start and some boys pick on her but she sticks at the sport.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: A tomboy, a black kid who can't catch, a chessplayer, and a boy that dresses like a cowboy are among the members of the Giants team.
  • Real Award, Fictional Character: Kevin O'Shea is a Heisman Trophy winner.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Becky goes on this against Spike after Junior is injured.
  • Rousing Speech: "Even if they beat you 99 times out of 100, that still leaves..."
  • Second Place Is for Losers: The attitude of Kevin O'Shea and he still carries that feeling when the Cowboys lose to the Giants.
  • Shout-Out: Kevin uses Veronica and Archie as a reference to answer a question from Becky.
  • Sickly Neurotic Geek: Jake's various illnesses are both gags and plot points ("I use these for acid indigestion!") and his status as this is made worse by his overprotective mother. Nubie is perfectly healthy and both geeks have a role in the final play of the game: Nubie draws it up (With John Madden's help) and Jake scores the touchdown off of it.
  • Smooch of Victory:
    • Patty gives one to Danny after the game ends and Danny finally has the courage to ask her out to dinner.
    • Teased but averted with Becky and Junior. They pause in their celebration for a deep, longing look in each other's eyes...then go right back to celebrating.
  • Sore Loser: Mike Hammersmith actually sobs into his ten year old son's shoulders after losing the game.
  • Start My Own: The Little Giants were started by kids who were not chosen to play for the Cowboys.
  • Team Spirit:
    • At one point, most of The Team quits but a pep talk from pro players convince them to continue playing through teamwork.
    • Then there's the "One Time" halftime speech.
  • Third-Person Person: Spike Hammersmith. "Spike don't play with girls."
  • This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: The first touchdown by the Giants is scored by "Rad" Tad Simpson after the following exchange in the huddle:
    Junior: Okay guys, listen up. What would be the last thing they'd expect us to do?
    Tad: (Beat) A reverse to me?
  • Token Evil Teammate: Most of the Cowboys are overly serious about what they do, but only Spike can truly be called nasty.
  • Tomboy: Becky "Ice Box" O'Shea is considered one because she's a football player and rough and tough enough to take any of the other players in a fist fight.
  • Turn Coat: Spike Hammersmith leaves the Little Giants and plays for the Cowboys because Danny fibbed and said he was "Coach O'Shea" but not the Coach O'Shea. Considering how he was tricked into joining the Little Giants in the first place, can anyone really hold it against Spike?
  • Underdogs Never Lose: A comeback from a 21-0 halftime deficit? This film definitely qualifies.
  • Unnecessary Roughness: The officials seemed to do little but whistle plays dead, with the only penalty in the game being the late hit on Junior. Many holding and facemask penalties went uncalled against the Giants throughout the game. An example would be that Zoltec's Fartillery would constitute a false start, and the "acid indigestion" pills would pull an Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty.
  • Victorious Childhood Friend: It took awhile for Patty seeing how Danny, and herself, ended up in prior relationships that produced a child. Eventually both relationships evaporated, and Patty got her chance to rekindle their childhood sparks when Danny shows up at her doorstep to recruit her son, Junior, for his football team. The victory kiss after the game sealed the deal.
  • Villainy-Free Villain: Kevin O'Shea. Harsh as it might be, the kids he cut from the Cowboys were not cut out for football and not as good as the other players (with the exception of Becky, which is plain sexist on Kevin's part). And given that they're planning to join the Pop Warner league, he has every right to be upset when he hears his little brother (who is not and has never been an athlete) is putting together a rival team to challenge the Cowboys. Where his high ground erodes is that Kevin is unsympathetic to the cut players, openly laughs in Danny's face at the idea he could coach a football team, and is generally arrogant and condescending.
  • When You Coming Home, Dad?: Johnny's dad is often away on business. When Danny sees him arrive at the big game, he calls a play featuring Johnny. Johnny delivers "a brilliant piece of running," right into his father's arms.
  • Would Hurt a Child: For extremely petty reasons, no less. Mike Hammersmith orders his son Spike to attack Junior — a preadolescent boy — in order to win a football game.
  • You Go, Girl!: The entire reason Danny decided to field his own team was because Becky didn't make his brother's team for the sole reason that she was a girl.
  • Younger Than They Look: Spike is ten years old but is a foot taller than his teammates and looks like he's almost in high school.