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Review: 'Little Red Wagon' Is a Gem

A little boy and his heroic acts are the focus of a true family drama.

With all the Holiday blockbusters coming at us fast and furious in time to be considered for the Oscars, sometimes a little gem of a film comes along, and all too often slips away unnoticed.

Such a film is Little Red Wagon, opening in limited release this weekend. If the term “family film” ever was accurate, this one fits the bill to perfection. No bombs, explosions, aliens, terrorist plots, CGI special effects; just an unpretentious that is heart-warming in the best sense of that over-abused term.

  • Little Red Wagon is one of the movies playing this week at Regency Agoura Stadium 8 Cinemas.

Based on the true story of Zach Bonner, the story follows him from its beginning in 2004 when Hurricane Charley threatens a community near Tampa Bay, Florida. Residents are seen boarding up windows, emptying super-market shelves of water and other provisions and preparing for nature’s coming onslaught as best they can.

From a script by Patrick Sheane Duncan (Mr. Holland’s Opus) and produced by award winning Dr. Michael Guillen, the film inspires us all to not sit and watch disaster unfold to our fellow Americans but to become true philanthropists and do anything and everything we can to help. A simple message but a powerful one, nonetheless. 

Director David Anspaugh (Hoosiers, Rudy) paces deliberately slowly and patiently in presenting the story in a straight-forward narrative that viewers, accustomed to the fast-paced cinematography prevalent in current films might find a bit disconcerting at first. But, patience is a virtue here as Zach’s journey from a quiet, taciturn, serious 8-year-old to an assured and passionate crusader for compassionate action unfold before our eyes. 

Chandler Canterbury is very effective at conveying innocence with a serious face that still manages to reveal a sly, almost cunning smile as the cumulative results of his labors to help bear fruit. Using his little red wagon of the title, Zach combs the neighborhood to collect food, water and clothes and when he decides to broaden his quest on a planned walk to Tallahassee (hundreds of miles away), his mission takes on heroic proportions. 

Zach’s mother and older sister convey the frustration of trying to accommodate and, at times, discourage the very determined boy, but his will eventually overcomes all obstacles set before him.

A parallel story of a recently widowed mother and her little boy (wonderfully acted by Frances O’Connor and Dylan Matzke) remind us how suddenly ordinary lives can become desperate and tragic in the blink of an eye. Even in the richest country in the world, neighbors can be left alone and forced to scrounge for food and sleep in cars when national resources come up short during a catastrophe.

Zach Bonner continued his work long after the storm that started him on his journey. We learn that he later walked to Atlanta, Washington D.C. and finally cross-country to Santa Monica.

This small film carries a big heart and hopefully will leave us all with the desire and will to not stand by and let others carry the burden of being a human being.

  • Click here to learn more about the real story behind the film and an interview with Agoura Hills' producer Michael Guillen.

Jeff Klayman is an award-winning playwright whose works have been produced in New York, Los Angeles and London. He also wrote the screenplay for the independent film Adios, Ernesto, directed by Mervyn Willis.

Russell Sands December 10, 2012 at 01:25 AM
This is an excellent movie, particularly for young people. The theater said they have sold-out most of the shows. Adults or children will find it powerful and compelling.

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