When I was in middle school I had a science teacher who surrendered the battle of holding seventh-grade attention spans and showed us a lot of educational videos.
These things spanned the decades, covered a variety of subjects, and were laughably bad. They elicited a whole lot of uncontrollable giggling and wisecracks, but I’ll be darned if I still don’t recall basic facts about wildebeests and cell division thanks to those lousy little movies.
So it turns out they held quite a bit of educational weight while holding practically no entertainment or artistic value whatsoever.
Such is the case with “Little Red Wagon,” a real clunker of a movie about a little boy who starts a charity for homeless children.
The acting is wooden, the dialogue is even worse and the plotting is almost nonexistent, but I can’t hate this movie because, like I said, it’s about a little boy who starts a charity for homeless children.
Every time I felt my eyes begin to roll to the back of my head at some overly manipulative sentimental moment, I would quietly remind myself “It’s even based on a true story, you heartless jerk!”
This truly is an admirable tale. Little Zach Bonner (played here by Chandler Canterbury) saw the devastation a hurricane caused a nearby Florida community and decided to go door to door with his little red wagon and collect supplies for disaster relief.
Zach’s resourcefulness and dedication makes quite an impact and Zach slowly moves his sights from the hurricane to homeless children around the country. This all culminates in Zach’s grand plan to raise money and awareness by walking over 200 miles across Florida to the state capital of Tallahassee.
Zach is aided in his efforts by his dutiful and occasionally overwhelmed mother, Laurie (Anna Gunn of “Breaking Bad” fame), and his moody older sister, Kelley (Daveigh Chase).
Minus a father because of a motorcycle accident, the Bonner family bonds over Zach’s charitable quest and deals with a lot of unclearly motivated emotional drama along the way.
Poorly executed heartwarming beats aside, “Little Red Wagon” does an excellent job of showing how a charity grows and functions. It paints not only the dry details of acquiring tax-exempt forms and making contacts with local businesses but the wide-angle view of having a grand vision to help those in need.
There is even a side-story about a mother (Frances O’Connor) and her son (Dylan Matzke) that has the look and feel of a bad Lifetime Movie of the Week, but rather accurately portrays how easy it is for single mothers to slide into homelessness.
“Little Red Wagon” isn’t a very good movie, but it should be shown in every school in the country. Hey, if I can still explain how photosynthesis works thanks to a bad movie, surely kids could learn the value of perseverance and caring for the less fortunate from one that’s not much better.
“Little Red Wagon” is rated PG for thematic elements and some language.