Sugar Creek Gang Episode 4: Secret Hideout Part 4

I have gotten waaaaaaay too many library fees over this dvd, so this is going to be the last part, I swear, if I have to sit here all night.

Fortunately this is the part where things get interesting. Well, sort of. There’s still a lot of boringness, but if you were to cut all that out, this would be the interesting part.

We last left off with a long cheesy scene of Bill Collins and Little Jim being tucked into bed. Little Jim is sleeping over at Bill’s house because his parents were going to have a baby, but that part got cut out of the script. Seriously, did the parents beg the directors for more screen time? I can’t think of why else this scene would be included.

We pick back up in the morning when the kids are in school. Miss Lilly is wearing a bright green dress that actually isn’t too bad looking. Better than that godawful wallpaper type dress she was wearing earlier. She interrupts the class as they are working.

Miss Lily: Boys and Girls, I have a serious problem to discuss with you. Mr. Foote, our township trustee, has secured Bob Till’s release from jail on Saturday afternoon. But just as soon as he got home, he disappeared.

We are left completely in the dark about why he would have disappeared. In the book, Bob’s father was an abusive drunk. I would like to know if that is why he ran away from home, or if the movie is taking a different track. I hope you weren’t curious, because we don’t get to know.

Miss Lilly is still speaking: That means he violated his parole. And will have to go to reform school or maybe back to jail.

What year does this movie take place in? What State is this? I would like to look these laws up, as I find this Juvenile criminal laws particularly interesting.  The fact that we’re not told what year this takes place in really really bothers me. Would it have really killed them to have at least put it on the back of the DVD case?

Miss Lilly is still speaking.

Mr. Paddler and I are hoping to convince the authorities to give Bob another chance. But in order to do that we need your cooperation. Bob says he is afraid to return to school because everybody will make fun of him and have nothing to do with him. Now, I have in my hand a paper that I would like you all to sign. And just as soon as we find Bob, I’ll let him read it. Perhaps he will come back to school and continue his education. All children need an education. Especially these days.


Miss Lily: Here’s what the paper says:

We in the sugar creek township want Bob till to have another chance. if he returns to school, we pledge to be kind to him, to treat him like we treat our friends, and to refrain from saying anything that would humiliate him.

I think  Miss. Lily means well, however, I’m not sure that sharing Bob’s situation with the rest of the class and having them sign a paper that is basically saying they will be friends with him is the best approach. I’m going to be generous here and assume Bob gave his permission for her to share his situation.

I don’t know what Bob did to go to jail, and the movie isn’t really going to tell us. It might be asking a bit much for the students of the Sugar Creek Schoolhouse to become friends with him. Treat him nicely and not humiliate him? Sure, why not. Friends? I don’t know the situation, perhaps it is better for them not to try.

Miss Lily asks Jim to sign the paper, and we get a closeup of her earring. I feel like someone in the prop department thought these earrings were very cool and absolutely needed to be in a shot somewhere. It’s kind of a weird shot otherwise


Big Jim looks at the other kids then at Miss Lily. He picks up the pen, then puts it down. We got some reaction shots of the other kids and they look pissed.

Big Jim (handing the paper and pen back) I’m sorry Miss Lily. The Sugar Creek Gang can’t sign this. We’d like to, but we can’t.

Why can’t you? Look, I get that the directors kind of wanted to shoot a series of movies that were more like episodes. But these movies aren’t really set up like that. They look more like standalone movies. Even just a brief clip at the beginning of the movie where the narrator says, “previously, on Sugar Creek Gang.” Like they do on Buffy and Roswell, just give me a few flashbacks so that I can have a bit of the backstory. Or at least know what year it is.

Miss Lily: Well, Jim does not speak for the entire gang, nor the entire schoolhouse.

She walks around the room, offering the paper to the other students. “What about you, Bill. Will you sign this paper?”

No, sorry, that doesn’t happen. Miss Lily just kind of accepts the fact that Big Jim not only speaks for a whole gang of 7 people, he apparently speaks for the entire schoolhouse. She gives the paper to Big Jim to hang onto, in case he changes his mind.

After school, the gang goes fishing. They’re all unusually quiet. Big Jim calls a vote, and asks who thinks he should have signed that paper. I think you should not worry about what the other kids think and decide whether or not to sign the damn paper  yourself.

Little Jim, Bill, and Tom Till raise their hands.

Big Jim: That’s 3 on 3, and I’m the tie breaker.

He taps Tom Till on the shoulder.

Big Jim: Hey, just to let you know, I wish I could have signed that paper.

Tom Till looks down at the water.

Then why didn’t you, Big Jim? You could have, and then let the other kids have their own choice. We are supposed to view Big Jim as the leader of the gang. He’s supposed to be someone we all look up to. I can’t look up to a pussy who can’t make his own decisions without consulting his peers.

We get more shots of the kids’ feet. Poetry has his fishing stick between his toes. He’s not even pretending to act like he’s fishing.

Bill: (to Tom) Why didn’t you tell us Bob was out of jail?

Tom: I don’t know

Bill: Well, where is he now

Tom doesn’t say anything.

Bill: really?

Big Jim notices Tom’s discomfort, and tells the gang to meet him at the cave in an hour. The kids leave their fishing sticks on the dock and all run away.

We cut to a scene of Bill leaving the house with his sleeping bag. Charlotte Anne is playing with a dollhouse on the porch while their mother sits in a rocking chair.

Charlotte Anne: I wanna go camp in the cave

Bill: you’re too small to go out without being scared.

Seriously? She’s not much bigger than Tom Till. I get that Bill wouldn’t want his sister along, but god.

Mrs. Collins tells Charlotte Anne she needs to stay here and keep her company while Bill’s gone. Nice save, mom! She tells Bill to be safe, and he goes to say goodbye to his dad, who tells him he’ll leave the back door open in case Bill decides to sleep in his nice warm bed. Dad leaves, and Circus comes up. Bill asks where Dragonfly is.

Circus: You mean scaredy cat? He’s decided he’s too scared to go, and now mom won’t let either of us go because the cave is too close to the cemetery. He totally ruined my whole weekend.

Bill: Let’s go talk to your mom

Circus: Good luck

I see Tom Till has done his work on Dragonfly’s mom. I kinda wish that scene hadn’t been cut, because I really want to know exactly how he went about doing it.

In any case, Dragonfly and Circus’ mom proves rather easy to convince. The acting is rather terrible. So Dragonfly and Circus both get to go, yay.

We then get a shot of Poetry on his way to the cave. He comes across a sheet hanging to dry on a line. He takes the sheet off the line, puts it around himself, and smiles. The scene could have ended here, I would have gotten it. Instead we get Poetry rolling around the ground in the bedsheet for like, 2 whole minutes. Whoever owns that sheet is going to be pissed.

“Oh Janie!” He calls, and runs away.

So, we were just walloped over the head with the fact that Poetry is going to drape a bedsheet over either himself or the lamb to try and scare the gang. It would have been better if the directors hadn’t shown Poetry doing that, because then the audience wouldn’t see it coming.

The kids all reach the cave. Poetry and Circus make fun of Dragonfly for not wanting to come. The kids all argue over who gets to sleep in the middle. Apparently they all want to sleep in the middle because they are all a little scared. Um, if you were scared, wouldn’t you want to be sleeping on the end, so you could get up and run away faster? I feel like if a ghost really came, the kids in the middle would be screwed.

The kids make a fire, and as they sit around it, they think of Bob, and we finally get some clue as to what all the trouble is. We are shown scenes from other movies where Bob Till is pretty mean. One of the kids even brings out a harmonica to set mood music during the flahsbacks.

Bob says things like:

  1. Well if it isn’t the worm collector and his good for nothing friends!
  2. Are you revival sissies having fun in the water!
  3. Don’t even think about trying to fish, tom
  4. Come nightfall, there won’t even be a revival
  5. You sent our uncle to jail last night, and your’e gonna live to regret it.

Given what the directors say on the commentary I can barely hear, I think Bob Till tried to burn down the church. Noble cause, as long as nobody was in it at the time.

The directors think that these flahsbacks are a good way to remind the audience of why the gang won’t sign that paper. I agree, but I also kind of think it isn’t enough. Ok, so Bob’s been kind of an asshole. But what did he do to get arrested?

As the gang settles down in the cave for the night, Dragonfly squirms around like his pants are on fire.

“I landed on something hard, it hurts.”

“But we already moved all the rocks,” says Big Jim.

It turns out that all that squirming around is because Dragonfly is lying on… a cuff link. I’d read about cuff links before, of course, but never actually seen one in real life, so I didn’t know what they were. Dragonfly’s excessive squirming was caused by something smaller than a quarter. This is what we call over acting. It just makes the character look stupid.

Bill notices that the cuff link looks just like the one on the shirt his mom mended for Old Man Paddler.

Aside from Dragonfly’s overdramatic reaction, I like this. This is a clue, and it’s not too obvious.

Bill: How’d it get here?

Tom: Maybe  it got tangled up in our clothes, and we dropped it here. *smiles innocently* let’s go to sleep.

Tom Till still thinks his brother is hiding out in this cave, so this reaction makes way more sense than it did the first time I watched it.

The kids all go to sleep. We hear rustling in the bushes. Poetry wakes up and shines a flashlight in Bill’s face.

Poetry: “Come on. There’s a ghost over in the bushes just waiting for you and me to catch it. And bring your lantern.”

Bill and I are both yawning at this point because we are tired of Poetry’s lamb shenanigans. They take too long to set up, and they’re not even that funny.

The 2 boys exit the cave to find Janie tied to a tree just outside. “What int he world?!” Shouts Bill. I wonder how the kids can possible sleep through their shouting.

“Ok,” says Poetry. “You hold Janie steady, and I’ll put my blanket over her.”

Janie makes loud “baaaaing” noises and the boys hide behind the tree. Dragonfly wakes up to the lamb’s baaaaaing. But not poetry’s earlier shouting? In any case, he gets scared. Because a lamb sound is soooooo scary.

“There’s a ghost outside!” Dragonfly says. “And it’s really real. Mom was right.” He screws up his face and makes like he’s about to cry.

Worst. Acting. Ever.

Circus wakes up, shoves Dragonfly back onto his pillow and says, “shut up and go back to bed.”

We get a shot of ghost Janie, and she does not even look remotely like a ghost. Besides, what ghost makes “baaaa” noises? HELLO does anyone in that cave have a BRAAAAAAAAAAAIN?

Anyway, Dragonfly won’t let the other kid sleep, so they all go outside to check. Dragonfly is convinced the ghost got Bill and Poetry. He whines and cries like a baby, and I’m totally with the other kids when they call him one, even though I don’t normally like name calling.

One of the kids exits the cave and goes, “it’s ugly!”

And it’s totally got lamb feet!

If the writers hadn’t told us that it was poetry, this scene could have sorta been exciting. There would have been some tension: actually a ghost, or Bill and Poetry pulling a prank? Ok maybe it wouldn’t have been that suspenseful but it would’ve been better than this snoozefest.

Yanno what would have made a lot more sense here? Is if Bob dressed up as a ghost to try and lure the kids away from the cave. Bonus points if Bill and Poetry are also trying, and the rest of the gang goes. “Well if it was you all along, who’s that?” That would still be expected and predictable, but it wouldn’t be as boring and contrived as it is now.

The kids go rip the sheet off Janie. Poetry and Bill jump out of the trees and scare the gang, probably more than the lamb did.

Big Jim: this lamb needs to get back to its mother now.

That’s the smartest damn thing you’ve said all movie.

So the kids go and put Janie in the barn. For some reason this requires all 7 of them. This part was totally contrived to get the kids out of the cave so Bob can lead them on a chase through the woods.

Dragonfly sees something white. Poetry comes out of the barn and says that Janie is in his pen. They ask if he’s sure, and then someone shouts, “hey there goes your lamb!”

Guys, you all just saw poetry put the lamb in the barn. Also, that “lamb” is pretty human shaped. I guess they all figure it out, because they all start shouting, “Bob, wait!” Bob runs away from what has got to he be world’s stupidest group of children ever.

One of the kids jumps on Bob and grabs his shirt. Bob shrugs out of his shirt and runs into the cave. The kid stands there holding the white shirt. Circus remarks that the cuff link on the shirt matches the one they found in the cave.

Big Jim tells the guys to form a line outside the mouth of the cave. They have the ghost trapped now, they’re sure of it.

Bill notes that the shirt is the exact same one his mom repaired for old Man Paddler, which we already knew, so I don’t see how this is relevant?

We hear a loud grating sound, and I can’t believe Bob would have waited so long before opening the trap door. Or maybe that’s supposed to be the trap door closing, I don’t know. in any case, they gang decide to go in after Bob.

The cave is empty, so where did Bob go?

Wait a second…the kids are all talking about “whatever it was” and “it sure wasn’t a ghost because ghosts don’t wear shirts” and “That couldn’t be old man paddler, so who was it?”

Do you seriously mean to tell me that these kids haven’t figured out it was Bob Till, even though they were shouting, “Bob wait?” Or was that just Tom Till shouting it and I’m the only one who heard him because in addition to being the stupidest children in the world, they’re also the deafest?

As they are arguing over whether or not the figure was a ghost, Old Man Paddler comes in. They give Old Man Paddler the shirt.

Old Man Paddler: Where did you get that?

Big Jim: I tore it off of Big Bob Till a couple minutes ago.

Old Man Paddler invites them to spend the night in his cabin, so he can make them some sassafras tea.

Kid: But we’re not anywhere near your cabin

Old Man Paddler: Actually y’are. Follow me.

Old Man Paddler shows them the secret passage from the cave to his house. We don’t get to see it, because the set designers didn’t have a big enough budget to make one. We just get some shots of the kids crawling around in the dark. The directors had the kids crawl around the fake cave, and just shot really close to them in the dark.

Circus: how’d this get here?

Old Man Paddler: I’ll explain later

Except he never does.

Old Man Paddler: I’ve been letting Bob stay in my cabin while I’ve been trying to convince the authorities to give him a second chance.

Bill: Why?

Old Man Paddler: Cuz I would have wanted the same thing for any of my boys.

They come out the cellar door and go into Old Man Paddler’s cabin. Old Man Paddler makes them sassafras tea, and they sit around the fire.

We hear loud coughing coming from off screen.

Old Man Paddler: That’s bob. He’s sick, poor feller. He ain’t even got enough clothes of his own. I’ve been letting him wear some of mine. That’s where the white shirt come from. He been cleaning up around the cemetery around my boys’ graves. he didn’t want to be seen during the daytime so I been letting him go at night. He still has a sense of shame, you know.

Big Jim reaches over and pulls the paper out of his pack. He asks if Old Man Paddler has a pen. he and the rest of the sugar creek gang go around signing the paper. The characters who got real names sign those, but Circus just signs her name as “circus.” Seriously, they couldn’t have bothered to give a real name?

Then we get a scene I wasn’t expecting, so props for the non predictable ending. I kind of like that this movie ends on a cliffhanger, but I almost feel it would be more appropriate for a TV series episode than a movie. It gets a pass, though, because I was expecting this really corny cheesy ending where Bob comes back and becomes part of the Sugar Creek Gang and they all hug and cry and shit.

The kids excitedly take the signed paper back to the schoolhouse. They all run and shout “Miss Lily! We signed the paper!”

But when they get into the schoolhouse, Miss Lily is gone.

The man standing at the blackboard looks at the Sugar Creek Gang.

Mr. Black: First of all, I am not Miss Lily. She has been unexpectedly called away for a few weeks. Second, signing papers does not keep children out of trouble. The only solution for misbehavior (picks up a beech switch) is strict discipline. (He whacks the desk with the switch.)

The Sugar Creek Gang stands there in shock. A drumroll plays. Fade to black, roll credits. Done. That…  was actually well done. Props to whoever wrote that.

And that’s that. We’re done. So, a few things.

I like the fact that the character  of Circus was turned into a girl, and I like the fact that, for the most part, the gang sees her as an equal. The only time her gender ever comes up is in the scene where the boys tackle her after she surprises them like a squirt gun, and Big Jim says that it shouldn’t take 3 boys to take down one girl. Other than that, I don’t think it comes up. No one tells Circus she can’t stay in the cave because she’s a girl and girls are too scared, and no adults try to make her behave more like a lady. Is that realistic? Well, probably not.

It would have been nice to see more character development from Circus, but there are only 5 of these movies, and there’s 7 gang members. That’s way too many kids to be able to fully develop well rounded characters for. I think the movie should have cut like 4 of those kids. We’d have to keep Bill and Poetry, Tom Till is needed for the plot, and for shits and giggles let’s keep Dragonfly. The other characters didn’t really do much, and they’re all kind of interchangeable.

Overall, this movie is… well, it’s not good. But I don’t hate it. It’s actually not that bad. Yes it was boring beyond belief and way too long, but I happen to agree with the directors that certain parts of it were well done. The message of the movie is there, but the reader isn’t pounded over the head with it.

I think this movie is a good example of the fact that you can have a very Biblical message without having the characters sound like walking New Testaments.

I like the movie way better this way, because, in the end, when the Sugar Creek Gang was signing the paper, you know that they did it because they realized it was the right thing to do. They came to this realization because they now had compassion for Bob. They saw him as a person, and they were willing to give him a second chance.

If the gang had done this, say, after Old Man Paddler read to them some bible verses and preached at them for a bit, the affect would have been different. The kids, then, would have signed the paper because they were guilt tripped into it. They would agree to treat Bob Till with respect because God told them to, rather than because they had learned to be compassionate individuals.

I think that doing the movie this way gave the characters some growth that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. It is really the only character development any of them besides Bob Till get.

So, even though this movie is terrible, I still say it’s a step in the right direction for Christian films.






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