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Pint-Sized Characters Who Pack a Punch

May 2, 2013


Most people think of action stars as some kind of larger-than-life testosterone-powered male: Bruce Willis, Jason Statham and Arnold Schwarzenegger all come immediately to mind. But I like it when movies break stereotypes and give us an action star in a much different package. Children can be used for something other than creeping me out being evil or as some sentimental pawns in a typical family film. No – I love it when young actors outsmart and/or just plain lay down the pain. As a rather prolific critic at I have had ample opportunity to see first hand just how different these roles can play out. Here are a few that really make an impact.

You can’t start any good “young vs. old” battle without mentioning a movie you either love or hate – Home Alone. No one is going to mistake Macaulay Culkin for an action hero – in fact, I find him a bit of an annoying little brat, but one thing he is: inventive. In the first film alone, he managed to cause a lot of injuries – most of which, in reality, would have been life-threatening but since this is a family film, our two burglars are immune to pain (and death). So even though I find him nearly unbearable not that I’ve grown up – I have to hand it to him, attempted murder is a pretty big step to take.

Home Alone is a movie about thinking on your feet, but two recent actresses have shown that being trained as a killer can give you a distinct advantage over those much bigger (and supposedly wiser) than you. I’m talking about Chloë Grace Moretz as Hit Girl in Kick-Ass and Saorsie Ronan as Hanna. The two roles are based on the same premise, but have much different outcomes. Hit Girls is all swagger, in-your-face violence and find use of colorful language. It does make her a bit unbalanced, but underestimate her and you’ll be on the wrong end of a blade or bullet. Hanna is a much cooler character. Calm and collected – she was raised in isolation by her ex-CIA father but suddenly finds herself thrown into the real world and on the run. She is a much more calculated killer – but that instinct it there, and it is lethal.

Enough about brawn – what about brains? If you can’t punch and/or kick your way out of trouble, how about using the greatest muscle of all – that is, the human mind. Smart children are just as useful in situations as ones who happen to be trained assassins. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to go a bit older than previous entries, as I don’t want to even think about the horror Baby Geniuses have brought upon this world. No, I’m turning to the 80s where one actor portrayed two iconic characters. The actor, Matthew Broderick and the two films: WarGames and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. In one he plays a computer genius who inadvertently starts a game that could easily develop into WWIII in the other he plays the coolest slacker in high school history. In both he puts adults to shame by A) hacking into a military super-computer and B) Having the world’s best day while convincing everyone he’s sick (and driving his principal insane). Although he almost starts a war – in the end he also manages to stop it. It’s a win-win all around for young adults.

I leave with what I feel is the greatest strength of all: strength of character. You can find this in a lot of films: The Goonies, The Neverending Story, The Sandlot – but I’m going to break from movies and end with a TV show that I feel has one of the strongest character going for it right now: Game of Thrones. There are plenty of strong characters, but none seem to resonate as well as Maise Williams as the fiery tomboy Arya Stark. Now that is the kind of role that makes a career and also make for memorable entertainment. If you could bottle that fierce determination and resolve, you would never want for anything again

There are plenty more examples. I tried to stay about from fantasy and base things in reality, which is why there is no mention of Harry Potter, Star Wars and the like, but there is not shortage of roles where the younger generation shines through.

Chris Kavan is the chief blogger and main critic for and while youth is sometimes wasted on the young… that’s not always the case.


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