Drama, Made for TV Movie

The Children of Times Square (1986)

0 Comments 05 August 2012

Studio: MGM

TV Debut: March 3, 1986

DVD-R Release: June 28, 2012

Director: Curtis Hanson

Not Rated

Review by James Klein

This made for TV cautionary tale about troubled teens, while over 25 years old, still seems relevant during our era. In fact, I was kind of surprised at some of the subjects this film dealt with as seeing young teens smoke pot, deal drugs, get caught up with pedophiles and eventually die seems like a taboo subject for your typical movie of the week. In fact, after awhile I forgot I was watching a made for TV movie. What makes it all the more real is that the film is directed by Curtis Hanson, who went on to direct L.A. Confidential and 8 Mile (although I would prefer to say the director of Losin’ It).

The story begins with young Eric Roberts (no, not the actor) who just doesn’t seem to be getting along with his new stepfather (David Ackroyd, from Cocaine: One Man’s Seduction) and his mother (Joanna Cassidy from Blade Runner). When Eric selfishly goes out to a concert one night, leaving his baby brother alone at the house, he is busted for it and given a good scolding like he deserves. Upset when he hears his stepfather say he wished the kid would stay with his real father who was beating him before, Eric takes off and travels on his own to NYC. When Mom gets word that he may be in NYC, she sets off trying to find her son on her own.

There is also a subplot involving a poor Mexican family whose apartment is burned down because of an accidental fire. Out on the street, the teenage son Luis (Danny Nucci) tries to get a job with some local street hustlers so he can make some money to help his mother and younger sisters. While I found this subplot more interesting than Eric’s story, it seems that the film wanted to focus on Eric’s story instead. While Luis remains in the film and meets up with Eric eventually, I would have liked an even amount of focus on both teens.

After being attacked by a pedophile, Eric meets Skater (Larry B. Scott from Revenge of the Nerds) a kind drug dealer who takes him in along with other young teens who all are drug dealers. Eric falls for this wrong crowd, led by the adult Otis (Howard E. Rollins). Otis seems to be kind at first but we soon see how dangerous he is when one of the kids forgets a secret password and he hangs the kid upside down, threatening to drop him several stories! Can Mom find Eric before its too late? It’s a TV movie, what do you think?

I really enjoyed seeing the many city scenes of Times Squareand the good old 42nd Street. The young performers are also great and there is a very touching moment, although brief, with Joanna Cassidy talking to a runaway girl who has been sexually abused by her father. Scenes like this, as dark and gritty as they are, elevate this TV movie of the week above most. While I know the ending climax is a bit unrealistic and maybe too sappy, we do end with seeing the sexual abused girl now as a prostitute, hitting the streets. Take that, happy ending!

MGM’s DVD-R looks great and sounds just as good. Being a TV movie, there are no extra features. But can you pass up this dark drama that even has a quick cameo by Joe Spinell? The Children of Times Square is worth checking out.

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