Welcome to my weekly discussion of the films of the Walt Disney Studio. I’m proceeding mostly chronologically. The title comes from a quote from Walt, “I never called my work an ‘art’ It’s part of show business, the business of building entertainment.”
Title: The Big Green.
Budget: $12 million
Box office: $17.7 million
Plot: Anna Montgomery, a teacher who is on an exchange program from Surrey, England, is placed into a school in the fictional small town of Elma, Texas. She initially struggles to connect with her students, as they believe they are underachievers doomed to dead end lives. One day, instead of teaching geography to the inattentive class, Anna breaks the globe in an attempt to pique the kids’ interest. After some confusion, the children start learning the game of soccer. After the first practice, Anna tells them she has entered them into a league in Austin, Texas, but their first game is the following day. The town Sheriff’s Deputy Tom Palmer becomes co-coach while at the same time begins falling for Anna.
The team travels to Austin to play the Knights, who are the top team in the league. However, none of the kids fully understand know how to play, and lose 18–0. They decide not to play anymore, until they discover the talent of new classmate Juan Morales, but have to persuade his reluctant mother to let him play. The team, now known as the Big Green, steadily improves with Juan, and they go on a remarkable run with a record of eight wins, two losses, and one tie, which earns them a re-match against the Knights in the championship. As the town goes crazy for the final, hometown boy and current Knights coach Jay Huffer returns to Elma, and finds in the bar the drunken and prejudiced father of Kate Douglas, one of the players. He tells Jay, who works as an auditor for the IRS, via bribery that Juan’s mother is an illegal immigrant. Later, Tom is forced to investigate the matter, forcing Juan and his mother to flee Elma. Kate is left furious with both her father and Tom over the situation, but Anna convinces her to stay on the team.
On the day of the championship, Tom searches for Juan, but is unable to find him before the start of the match, and by halftime the team is down 2–0. With 10 minutes left in the game, Juan arrives with Tom and his mother, where Tom announces he is now the sponsor for Juan’s mother, meaning they can stay in the country. Juan enters the game and sets up Elma’s first goal, and with the last kick of the match, scores the equalizer to tie the game, 2-2, forcing the championship to be decided in a penalty shootout. In the final round with the score still tied, the Knights captain and son of the coach, Jay Huffer Jr., steps onto the field. The Big Green goalie Larry Musgrove, who suffers from visions of the opposition players becoming “monsters,” manages to turn himself into a monster in his own fantasy, in order to psych out the opponent and save the kick. The final kick for the championship is taken by the Big Green’s smallest and youngest player, Newt Shaw. He scores on his kick, giving the Big Green the championship. Huffer, having made a bet with Anna if his Knights were to lose, kisses the Big Green’s goat mascot, much to his disgust.
The final scene shows a new billboard in Elma, featuring the team and highlighting their success on the field and in the classroom.
Background: The movie was shot near and around Austin, Texas in Autumn of 1994.
Olivia d’Abo as Miss Anna Montgomery. She is known for her role as Karen Arnold, Kevin Arnold’s rebellious teenage hippie sister on The Wonder Years, and recurring villain Nicole Wallace in Law & Order: Criminal Intent. She guest starred in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode titled “True Q” as Amanda Rogers. In animation, D’Abo provided the voices of Sonya Blade in Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm; Melanie Walker/Ten in Batman Beyond; Star Sapphire in Justice League; and Morgaine le Fey in Justice League Unlimited; Tak in Invader Zim; Jane Porter in The Legend of Tarzan; Jedi Master Luminara Unduli in Star Wars: The Clone Wars; Carol Ferris in Green Lantern: First Flight; and Natalia Romanoff in Ultimate Avengers and Ultimate Avengers 2: Rise of the Panther. Steve Guttenberg as Deputy Sheriff Tom Bahasa. He is known for his roles in Cocoon, Police Academy, Three Men and a Baby, Diner, The Bedroom Window, Three Men and a Little Lady, and Short Circuit.
Jay O. Sanders as Coach Jay Huffer. He is perhaps most recognized for his work in the films The Day After Tomorrow and Green Lantern. He has appeared in many other notable films, including Glory, JFK, Angels in the Outfield, Half Nelson, and Revolutionary Road. John Terry as Edwin V. Douglas. He is perhaps best known for his role as Christian Shephard in the TV series Lost and Larry McCoy in the TV series Las Vegas. Other films include Hawk the Slayer, There Goes the Bride, Tuxedo Warrior, Wild Geese II, Full Metal Jacket, The Living Daylights, In Country, Against the Grain, Of Mice and Men and The Resurrected. He appeared in the first episodes of ER playing Dr. Div Cvetic, and on 24, as Bob Warner. He also appeared in David Fincher’s Zodiac, Matthew McConaughey’s Surfer, Dude, and Nine Dead.
Chauncey Leopardi as Evan Schiff. He known for his role at eleven years old as Michael “Squints” Palledorous in The Sandlot. Leopardi also appeared in Boy Meets World, in the pilot episode. He also appeared in runs as bully Alan White on Freaks and Geeks and as the geeky Navy sailor, Kyle, on Gilmore Girls. He has appeared in various other films and television series, including Houseguest. Patrick Renna as Larry Musgrove. He appeared in the films The Sandlot and Son in Law. He appeared in the television shows The X-Files, ER, Judging Amy, The Closer, Boston Legal, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Bones, Hell’s Kitchen, and GLOW.
Bug Hall as Newt Shaw. He is best known for his childhood roles as Alfalfa in The Little Rascals and Buster Stupid in The Stupids. Hall was nominated for a YoungStar award for his work as Eddie Munster in the Fox telefilm The Munsters’ Scary Little Christmas, and he voiced a little boy in Hercules. Hall has had many notable TV guest appearances, appearing on Charmed, Strong Medicine, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Cold Case, Justice, Providence, Criminal Minds, and 90210. Libby Villari as Brenda Neilson. She is best known for her recurring role as Mayor Lucy Rodell on Friday Night Lights. Her film appearances include Boyhood, Infamous, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Boys Don’t Cry, The Faculty, Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering and The Whole Wide World.
Critical Reception: Stephen Holden in The New York Times, in a favorable review wrote on September 29th, 1995 “Most of the movie’s charm lies in its portrayal of the children as an adorable, if exasperating, multicultural version of Our Gang.”
My take: It’s a cute movie. Larry is about as good a keeper as I was
Available on Disney +?: Yes
Next Week: Remember the Titans