Sometimes a movie comes along and you really want to see it because the premise is almost too good to be true. Yeah, I know; as if that’s unusual these days. But “Little Big Top” is a movie I wanted to like more than I actually did.
Sid Haig (“House of 1000 Corpses,” “The Devil’s Rejects”), is Seymour Smiles, an old circus clown and current drunk, who’s moved back to his small Illinois hometown to live out the rest of his days in a drunken stupor. But when his childhood friend shows up and convinces him to help the local circus clown troop, Seymour is thrust back into the one place he fears most: the spotlight.
What a great premise full of funny possibilities! I knew I wanted to see it. And Sid Haig is great; most of the supporting cast is, too. The music is fun; as you might expect, it’s all circus type music – mostly upbeat, kinda goofy, coming in at very opportune moments for maximum funny. Scenes like Seymour shuffling over to the liquor store (circus-themed, of course), wearing one big clown shoe and accompanied by that music, are pretty amusing.
But, I couldn’t get over the fact that certain scenes looked, well, unprofessional – almost student film-like. There are a couple moments where the actors seem like they’ve never done this before – and we’re talking about Sid Haig and Richard Riehle, who’ve both been acting for many years. Richard Riehle is a character actor who has been in more things from TV and film than even I can note. You’d know him if you saw him sort of thing.
I figure this can only be attributed to lack of prep or insufficient directing, I don’t know which. It was just really surprising. I can say this was a very low budget production, and it was made back in 2006 and is only now getting released – limited release at that. And as it turns out, this is only actor/writer Ward Roberts second time directing, and his first feature. It’s a nice effort when you look at it that way. On the other hand, his inexperience shows at times.
This felt like a twenty-minute short film that got stretched into a 99 minute feature. It should have been shorter, eliminated repetitive scenes, and thereby become much tighter and emotionally effective. How many times do we need to see Seymour get drunk and then wake up in some yard, in order for us to get the idea he’s a drunk?
The last scene didn’t pay off quite like it should have. You’d think the one scene you should make sure is flawless is the final one. But it just didn’t have the impact because I don’t think they gave Sid Haig enough to work with. He did all he could with the material given, though. He is very expressive.
It’s not a bad film, just one that could have used considerable reworking. If you’re a big Sid Haig fan, rent from Netflix when they get it… which shouldn’t be too long.
~ Neil T. Weakley, your laughing-on-the-inside kind of clown.