By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin October 19, 2012 at 1:00AM
This heartfelt movie is based on the true story of an 8-year-old boy who set out to help homeless children and wound up spearheading a full-blown crusade. Director David Anspaugh (Rudy, Hoosiers) and screenwriter Patrick Sheane Duncan (Mr. Holland’s Opus, Courage Under Fire) are nothing if not sincere, and tell their story in an appealing, straightforward manner. But I fear that their film may be dismissed by some critics as do-gooder fare or a dose of sugar-coated medicine. How you see it may be determined by your worldview and your level of cynicism.
Chandler Canterbury is winning, and completely convincing, as Zach Bonner, an 8-year-old Florida boy who, with the innocence of youth, decides to gather leftover emergency supplies from his neighbors (in his little red wagon) after Hurricane Charley bypasses their part of the state. When he later visits a shelter and sees displaced children first-hand, he determines to do even more. He earns the whole-hearted support of his mother (nicely played by Anna Gunn) and the tentative encouragement of his teenage sister (Daveigh Chase), who is at loggerheads with her mom.
Meanwhile, not far from the Bonners, a single mom (Frances O’Connor, who can break your heart with just one look) loses her job and finds, to her dismay, that she and her young son are slipping through the so-called safety net of our society. This aspect of the story is all too real, as millions can attest.
The filmmakers never sentimentalize their story and the performances are first-rate. What could be cloying is played out honestly; that’s why I admire this film, and not just its good intentions.
Little Red Wagon is a small movie with a big heart. It celebrates the work of Zach Bonner and reminds us how much one person (even a guileless 8-year-old) can effect change in the world around him. The movie may not be edgy or spectacular, but it couldn’t be more relevant.
To learn more about the film and when it will be playing in a theater near you, click HERE.