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Did you ever see The Goonies ? It was a pretty awesome film made back in 1985 that stars a very young Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, and Corey Feldman. Basically, it’s like a spy movie for kids – they have lots of gadgets, they have to stop some bad guys, and they have to bond as a team to do it. Well, The Crocodiles (Vorstadtkrokodile) , part of the 2010 Sprockets film festival, is just such a film. Except it’s updated. And it’s German.

The film opens with an initiation gone wrong. Young Hannes, in his quest to become a member of the Crocodiles, is left hanging from the roof of a dilapidated building. As the other gang members scatter and panic, a boy in a wheelchair sees the accident and sends help. So starts a tentative friendship between Kai and Hannes, despite several gang members’ resistance to him. Various circumstances reveal Kai’s unique   resourcefulness, and the club bands together to help catch some local burglars.

The young actor who plays Kai (Fabian Halbig) puts in a fine performance as the special needs kid confined to a wheelchair. He acts out, especially when plied with the smothering ministrations of his mother, and his frustration is believable. All the child actors do a good job, but no one really comes close to the charm and sweetness of the main character, Hannes (Nick Romeo Reimann). Whether he’s taking care of his mom, whizzing by on his skateboard, or falling from a roof, Reimann is simply a delight to watch. In my opinion, he makes the film.

Despite being aimed at kids, The Crocodiles manages to avoid being overly sweet or heavily moralistic – something that seems often to plague this type of film. It is well-shot, action-packed, and is full of above-average chase scenes. Themes of teamwork, relying on others, and understanding difference are throughout the film, but director Christian Ditter never hits you over the head with it. It’s really quite charming.

The Crocodiles was released last year to very good reviews in its home country, but this is our first chance to really see it in Toronto. For those of you who like it, you have The Crocodiles 2 to look forward to (recently released in Germany) next year.

The film screens five times during the festival (from April 17th through to the 20th). Director Christian Ditter will be in attendance. Check out the Sprockets website for showtimes and information.

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