Sum-sum-summertime. I was 12, my mother had just forced me headfirst onto a dilapidated yellow school bus, festooned with hand-painted BonVoyage signs and a horde of boisterous kids my age that I was completely petrified of. Two hours later, somewhere in upstate NY, and cringing most of the way, afraid someone might talk to me, I’d finally realize that this summer would change my life. Who knew I’d never want to leave that godforsaken dump, …good ole Camp Bernie.
Scorched marshmallows, plenty of pre-pubescent pranks, ear ache-filled swimming lessons, my first taste of ‘schlong soup’, water balloons bursting against white t-shirts, …I guess I did it all, even my first dance, how compellingly awkward. It was definitely my ‘coming-of-age’ extravaganza, and unfortunately you only get those experiences once in this life. But, my sleepaway experiences were nothing compared to those of the chickadees at fictitious Camp Little Wolf.
This lil 80s gem, directed by Ronald Maxwell, if not short of sheer teen movie glory, ranks right up there with the best of the campy teen sex comedies of the era. With kick-ass Kristy McNichol, as the spunky streetwise sprite, Angel Bright, and kitten Tatum O’Neal as prissy debutante, Ferris Whitney, Little Darlings definitely hit the archer’s bullseye. Both are sent begrudgingly to summer camp, one from the wrong side of the tracks, and the other from high society, bashing headfirst in a bittersweet collision of peer pressure and broken hearts.
Angel and Ferris, fierce rivals from the get-go, place a bet to see who’ll have their cherry popped first. Angel sets her sights on happy-go-lucky thug, Randy, played by mostly-shirtless Outsider, Matt Dillon, from the boys camp across the lake. Randy definitely wants one thing from Ferris, and it seems she’s the one with cold feet. Ferris on the other hand, preys on the camp’s athletic coach, dreamy Armand Assante, hoping to ‘fill’ that father figure role she so sorely needs. It’s one flirtatious flub after another, as she gives it her all. Game on! The girls aren’t prepared for what the real game of life has in store for them, as shattered love muscles lay beneath their flowered flip flops at every turn. They eventually find out that despite their differences, they’ve got much more in common than they thought, cementing their friendship like blue sticky-tack.
98 pounds of non-stop energy, Kristy looks amazing whether she’s puffin’ on an unfiltered Marlboro in her slashed studded denim jacket or covered in apple pie-n-ice cream at the film’s climactic food fight. Tatum’s coquettish arrogance is draped fittingly in frilly lace and pastel floral prints, and she’s a joy to watch. After the credits roll, what remains intact, minus their virginity, are their free spirits and tender hearts. Watch for freckled Cynthia Nixon’s debut as the flower child of the bunch, with definite shades of a future Miranda Hobbes.
The mellow soundtrack includes late Beatle, John Lennon, and a couple groove infused tracks by the Bellamy Brothers, all tied in with some nonsensical roller-disco tunes, sung by Kristy and her brother. Although this film is officially out of print, it’s probably available on full screen VHS tape in a bargain bin at your local mom-n-pop video chain. I highly recommend getting your grubby paws on this sugary sweet coming-of-age treat, so, saddle up with some Jiffy Pop, and turn off yer noggin.