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Little Big Top
Little Big Top
Actors: Sid Haig, Richard Riehle, Hollis Resnik
Director: Ward Roberts
Genres: Comedy
UR     2008     1hr 29min

An aging out of work clown returns to his small hometown, resigned to spend the rest of his days in a drunken stupor. But when his passion for clowning is reawakened by the local amateur circus he finds his smile


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Movie Details

Actors: Sid Haig, Richard Riehle, Hollis Resnik
Director: Ward Roberts
Genres: Comedy
Sub-Genres: Comedy
Studio: Morningstar Entertainment
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 11/04/2008
Original Release Date: 01/01/2008
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2008
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 1hr 29min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: English

Movie Reviews

An Indie Film You Shouldn't Miss!
Richard D. Propes | Indianapolis, Indiana | 11/13/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Seymour Smiles (Sid Haig, "Kill Bill, Vol. 2" and "House of 1000 Corpses"), an aging ex-clown in his 50's, arrives back in his hometown of Peru, Indiana content to live out the rest of his days alone in a drunken stupor.

The problem? This IS Peru, Indiana. In Peru, Indiana clowns aren't just funny people you watch once a year when the circus comes to town...clowning is a way of life in this small Indiana town.

And in this town that takes clowning so seriously Seymour Smiles is not only a legend himself, he's the son and the grandson of clowning legends Miles O'Smiles and Sonny Smiles. When Seymour Smiles returns to town, drunken stupor or not, he gets noticed...quickly.

It's not long before his childhood friend, Bob Patterson (Richard Riehle of "Office Space"), is at his doorstep and convinces Seymour to join the local amateur circus and lead their ragtag team of clowns.

Seymour isn't really interested in leading a bunch of amateur clowns, and he's even less interested in sobering up long enough to do so. Finally, Seymour is booted out by a no-nonsense Head Trainer (Hollis Resnik) and, almost simultaneously, loses his home to foreclosure. One night, broke and homeless, Seymour finds himself hiding in the circus arena in his small town. It's in the midst of this despair that Seymour first hides, then watches the local circus amateurs in practice and then, finally, rediscovers his own long lost passion for clowning.

Several apologies and a whole lot of humble pie later, Seymour Smiles is back under the big top...sober, sensitive and, well, smiling.

"Little Big Top," written and directed by Ward Roberts ("The Boy Scout"), is the sort of film that makes small town folks smile. It's funny, without being condescending and familiar without being patronizing. In "Little Big Top," Ward Roberts has created a world that feels familiar because it's filled with your next door neighbors, your liquor store clerk, your local grocery store cashier and your local drunk who always makes you laugh affectionately. As irascible as Seymour can be at times, Roberts knows the truth about small town folks like Seymour...they may drive us crazy, but we love them.

The film's intimate direction and production design can be both inviting and distracting. When Seymour reveals that he wants to rehearse his own act after hours because he doesn't like to be watched, its as if the entire production design of "Little Big Top" shifts course. Suddenly, camera shots fade away, lighting dims and there's a distance between us, the audience, and this clown who is trying desperately to find his smile again. At times, this distance is uncomfortable as a viewer...yet, it feels like an intentional decision that, ultimately, makes the viewing experience more powerful because we, the viewers, are experiencing Seymour's discomfort right alongside him. It's a subtle, amazingly insightful touch by Roberts.

As Seymour, Sid Haig creates a character unlike any he has ever created onscreen. Long recognized for his ability to bring to life the quirkiest, weirdest, sickest and darkest characters in contemporary cinema, here Haig blends touches of dark, quirky, weird and, unexpectedly, downright sweet. Capitalizing on the abstract character development of Roberts' script, Haig has created one of 2006's most memorable characters. What could have been a simple, loud and histrionic caricature instead becomes the image of a man who has either been broken or broken himself, who can be simultaneously hateful and hopeful. Haig, with uncommon tenderness, underplays Seymour with the seeming awareness that Seymour's woundedness has done more than take him out of the has taken him out of life.

The rest of the supporting cast provides a perfect complement to the emotional chaos of Seymour. As Bob Patterson, Richard Riehle offers his usual strong, sympathetic performance, while Hollis Resnik's Aggie is a delightful blend of gruff and compassion. While the team of clowns largely plays as an ensemble, Jacob Zachar, as the eager Ernest, shines in a supporting role.

As Seymour's journey towards rediscovering his smile begins to wind down, it goes without saying that he will have to once again face his fears, his anxieties and his alcohol. By the time Seymour arrives at opening night having to choose between a life of drunken fear or a return to the little big top, Seymour has become that close friend you just hope and pray is back on the path to happiness.

It is this last closing shot of Seymour where the film ends and Roberts chooses to focus almost solely on the entire focus of "Little Big Top"...Seymour's smile. While the shot itself feels a tad abrupt, the shot is perfect in the way that the entire film doesn't come down to small town Peru, clowning or anyone is all about this journey that has led to the return of Seymour's smile.

Production design for "Little Big Top" is simple, yet effective throughout the film, with a particularly strong score that companions the film. Roberts' use of abrupt scene cuts makes the film's ending just a touch confusing, an observation that was shared by multiple individuals during the film's screening at the 2006 Heartland Film Festival.
Clown enthusiasts can also rejoice in that relatives of famed clowns Emmett Kelly and Emmett Kelly, Jr. appear in "Little Big Top," and those familiar with the real Peru Circus will recognize some cast members as members of the actual Peru Circus.

"Little Big Top" is a lot like Seymour Smiles. It's a smile-inducing film that makes you smile, occasionally rubs you the wrong way and, through it all, warms your heart and captures a precious, truly innocent slice of life.

Little Town, Big Heart
Snapple | 12/08/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This character driven film, set in the small town of Peru Indiana (The Amateur Circus Capital of the world!), is a charming, character driven film. One of my favorite independent films to be released this year. The low budget of the film is obvious at times, but it somehow enhances the film's setting, which I really like, almost as if it was done on purpose.
Legendary actor Sid Haig has never had a more well rounded, dimensional character as he does here as Seymour Smiles. Richard Rhiele is great too, funny and endearing, his presence always gives films something extra.
The end of the movie left me a bit frazzled at first because it only gives you part of what you want to see, but that's what makes the movie special in the end, the fact that some of it is left up to the audience, similar to an abstract painting or a book without pictures.

Ed: I liked this movie too, the above is actually from my girlfriend misusing my account.
This is a very unusual, unpretentious film. It is truly Indie, and you should just watch it so you can see what you're missing from the standard Hollywood fare: independent characters with empathy and down to earth reasoning. Top notch sound and cinematography for a low budget movie. I left the movie feeling refreshed and a little better about the world, which only very few movies do to me."
Wonderful film
Wandering boy | Middle US | 01/12/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Having grown up in the Circus City, I was extremely interested in this film. Great film. Gives a good view of Peru, its people, area and the love the town has for its history with the circus. It really is filmed in Peru and it is a really nice story, as well.
Well done. Watch this film, more than once.

Love the circus...
J. Lane | Tampa, FL | 01/20/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I loved the fact that this movie was ACTUALLY shot in Peru, IN and really gave you a feel for the town and how they feel about THEIR circus. This was a fun movie to watch and I have recommended it to many."