This review is done at the request of Callie Williams. I love you so much, I even sat through extra showings of this in order to watch it with the commentary. So instead of 70 minutes, I sat through 3 and a half hours of bad television for you. You’re welcome.
It’s actually quite difficult to find information on the Sugar Creek movie series. There is a website but it doesn’t give out too much detail.
Most of the books are still under copyright, so I can’t tell exactly how much source material they’re borrowing. I’ve read one of the books, Sugar Creek Shenanigans, but that seems to correspond to movie #5, Teacher Trouble. I am not watching movie #5 to compare, because that’s way too many hours of bad television. All I really learned from reading the book is that the source material is already super boring. But that should make it easy, right? I mean, they could take about 6 of the books, cut the fat, and make one 75 minute movie out of it, right?
Let us see if this movie is as boring and pointless and the acting as terrible as I have been promised.
This movie, annoyingly, has no subtitles. I have hearing issues so we’ll see how this goes.
We open with a thunderstorm at night. We hear a child’s voice cry out “Mom, where are you?! Mom, come back! Mom, don’t leave me!”
At least, I thought that’s what he was saying the first 2 times I watched it. Only when I watched it with commentary did I actually understand he was calling for Bob, not mom. See why I need subtitles?
We see a dark shadowy figure in a cave, which might or might not actually be the actor who plays Bob Till.
According to the commentary, this scene was tacked on later,
when it became clear that the parts with Bob Till were the only interesting parts of the show to give Bob more backstory. Actually, according to the commentary* a lot of, if not all, of the Bob and Tom Till stuff was added in later to flesh out the characters more. I kind of thought that that was the main point of the movie on my first watch through, which begs the question: What the fuck was the plot supposed to be if most of this stuff was added in later?
After the rather pointless scene of Shadow Person in the cave (no, it’s not a real cave. That would have presented a logistical filming nightmare.) we cut to Bill Collins leaping down the stairs of his house and running across a field to the swamp to join poetry. Bill must care a lot about his outfit, because he changed his shirt between leaving the house and meeting up with Poetry. He must care a lot about sweat stains I guess.
Bill and Poetry sit on a log together and close their eyes, making weird faces. I’m not sure what they’re supposed to be doing. Poetry looks like he’s constipated.
Circus walks up to them, trying to be all sneaky, and they can’t see her because they have their eyes closed.
Poetry: I saw you toss the kites on high, and something something something sky–
Circus: The rain is raining all around, it rains on Bill and Poetry!
She starts squirting Poetry in the face with a squirt gun, saying, “that’s what you get for spouting off poems in my presence.”
I like this girl already.
Circus, in the books, was a boy. He was called “Circus” because he was because he has amazing athletic abilities, and can’t resist climbing a tree or doing a cartwheel.** We never see Lexi, the actor who plays Circus, do any of that in this movie. I’m not sure if that’s because Lexi Johnson couldn’t do a cartwheel to save her life, or if the writers just honestly didn’t think about it that much. They needed a token girl, and they picked Circus. As to why they felt they needed a girl in the first place, my guess is that they were trying to appeal to a wider audience of children.
That squirt gun looks way too real, btw. Did squirt guns honestly look like that in the 1940s? Until stated otherwise, I’m going to assume that this movie takes place in the same time period as the books.
Dragonfly comes up behind Circus and pushes her down into the mud. Uppity female deserved her comeuppance. Poetry threatens to recite a long poem for her, and just as I’m afraid we’re actually going to have to hear it, Big Jim comes up and says, “It’s pretty sad when it takes 3 boys to get a water gun away from one girl.”
Well, I’d say that depends on the girl. Some girls are bad ass.
The gang hear a noise. Ooooh what is it? Is it a ghost? Dragonfly is sure it’s a ghost, because he saw a moving flash of white, so what else could it possible be? My first guess, “a human” turned out to be correct. It’s Little Jim and Little Tom Till. Little Tom runs into a tree and falls down. The little guy is always falling down in these films, and he plans it that way. I guess he thinks it makes him look funny or cute. The directors kind of just roll with it.
Big Jim asks if anyone is still scared. Everyone but Dragonfly says no. Circus slaps Dragonfly on the back and says, “he’s fine.”
I have no idea why Circus slapped him, except that it is apparently necessary for her to slap Dragonfly once per movie. Actually I’m not sure if the directors planned it that way or if it’s just an observation.
The gang runs off through the mud puddles in the swamp, not caring that their shoes and socks are going to be drenched. Am I the only one who hates wet socks? Because I just cringed watching them.
We then come to the first scenes that were shot for this film; the cemetery. I have no idea why these kids are
playing sitting around chatting in a graveyard. That was always my favorite place to play as a child… Bill has changed his shirt again. I should make a drinking game to go along with this movie, and we shall drink every time we see Bill in a new shirt. We shall all die of alcohol poisoning.
According to the commentary this is the most deep and depressing scene of the entire movie. I will agree with depressing.
Big Jim: Old Man Paddler’s wife was only 37 years old when she died.
Dragonfly: My mom’s only 37 years old
Bill: My mom’s over 40
Circus: Some people die young, some don’t. It’s not fair.
Little Tom: Nothing’s fair. That’s just how it is.
Big Jim puts his arm around Little Tom’s shoulders and says he’s sure Big Bob won’t be in jail too long. Little Tom looks at the ground.
Dragonfly says his mom saw another ghost last night, in the front yard. Apparently it sounded like a baby. Must be the ghost of that abortion she had that Dragonfly doesn’t know about. I’m kidding, this movie doesn’t go that deep.
Bill suggests it was one of Poetry’s lambs. As if on cue, Poetry begins to recite Mary Had A Little Lamb. Circus looks as annoyed as I feel.
Bill: Say, what if one of Poetry’s lambs really did follow him to school one day?
Circus(smiling): And made our classmates laugh and play?
Everyone: yeah *laughter*
Who talks like this? No one talks like this.
The kids leave the graveyard and run through the woods. Hang on, where’s Dragonfly? Just as the boys and Circus decide to go look for him, he comes running up to them saying, “I saw it!”
Dragonfly: I saw it, and I don’t believe it! It’s a real, honest to goodness–
Dragonfly: No, a cave.
We cut to a shot of a much older boy hidden in the grass nearby. Everyone, meet Bob Till. You are supposed to know he’s Bob Till from watching movies 1-3. There’s apparently a lot of backstory I’m missing, which is why I was confused as to why this much older boy was spying on a group of much younger children. Didn’t he have anything better to do with his life?
Dragonfly shows the kids the cave. Everyone choruses “Wow!” “he found a cave!,” and “neato!” for a good 2 minutes. They notice the lantern and shovel lying at the mouth of the cave, wondering who left them. Little Tom has matches, and they light the lantern and go into the cave. Apparently the kids all fought over who would get to carry the matches and light them. These kids not only loved to play with the squirt gun behind the scenes, they loved playing with matches.
The walls of that cave look like the glitter fairy barfed all over them. I get that cave walls are supposed to sparkle but seriously? In any case, it’s a one room cavern, and supposedly very dark even though there’s a lot of light in there.
Big Jim suggests they all sleep in the cave on Friday night, but hesitantly. Everyone else agrees that that would be a great idea and I can’t tell if we’re supposed to think they’re not too keen on the idea or if the acting is just that terrible.
Everyone exits the cave except Bill and Poetry, who hear strange sounds and try to figure out what they are. Bill guesses the sounds are from an underground stream, and I can’t hear anything and don’t know what they’re talking about. The weird sounds are supposed to be a secret between Bill and Poetry, shared by no one in the rest of the gang. Ok, um, what?
Bill and Poetry exit the cave to find Little Jim whacking trees with a stick. I have no idea why Little Jim is hitting trees with a stick, and neither do the directors.
The rest of the gang having disappeared, Bill and Poetry decide to head to the graveyard. For reasons, I guess? Anyway they find the graves of Old Man Paddler’s children, all of whom died in the same year. They run away and hide when they see Old Man Paddler coming to the graveyard with a flower pot. He says a little prayer over their grave, then tries to leave the graveyard. As he does so, he tears his shirt on the fence.
Why is an old man climbing over a fence to get into a graveyard? Can’t he just go in at the gate?
Bill: My mother would be glad to sew up that rip for you
Way to volunteer your mother to do something, eesh.
Old Man Paddler: Thank you Bill. You know, I had a Bill of my own once. He was about your age…
Bill stands there uncomfortably before we fade to black. After a few seconds of black, we open on a thunderstorm. A pair of hands plant a purple flower. Dude, with the amount of skywater coming down, that flower is going to drown.
According to the commentary, this is a clue. We are supposed to look at the leather wrist band and know who that belongs to. I have no idea how obvious this would be to someone who’s been able to sit through all 3 prequels, but I totally didn’t catch it. Those hands, though, are not the hands of the actor who plays Bob Till. They’re Joyce the director’s hands.
The thunder and lightening are so loud, they scare Bill as he tries to sleep. After more shots of lightening, we fade to black.
I think that’s where I’m going to stop for now. My goal is to get this review done in 3 installments, but it’s just too long and boring to try and do in one post.
Tune in next time as the gang try to act out scenes from Mary Had A Little Lamb, Who’s Gender She Didn’t Know.
*At least, I am 90% sure that’s what they said in the commentary. The commentary has really crappy audio. Like, even a person with normal hearing would have a hard time understanding it because whoever did the commentary didn’t understand that commentary goes over the sound of the movie, not vice versa. So you’d have Joyce one the commentary trying to talk, but she’d be drowned out by Poetry yelling about…something. This, combined with the lack of subtitles, made the commentary barely understandable.
Another reason the commentary was difficult to hear was because I think there was only one microphone, placed in front of the man. When the man was talking, I could hear him with minimal problems. When the woman was talking, I could barely make her out. These people make movies, they’re supposed to be experts with audio. Very frustrating.