is a 2003 television film made for the Nickelodeon
Nickelodeon, often simply called Nick and originally named Pinwheel, is an American children's channel owned by MTV Networks, a subsidiary of Viacom International. The channel is primarily aimed at children ages 7–17, with the exception of their weekday morning program block aimed at preschoolers...
network, based on the book about 12-year-old Jeffrey Lionel "Maniac" Magee, an orphaned runaway with many extraordinary and athletic talents, who arrives in a town divided with racial conflict.
- Michael Angarano
- Early life :Angarano was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Doreen and Michael P. Angarano. He is of Italian descent. His family owns and operates three successful dance studios; two in New York and one in California called Reflections in Dance. His mother is the owner and director of all...
as Jeffrey Lionel "Maniac Magee
Maniac Magee is a young adult fiction novel written by American author Jerry Spinelli and published in 1990. Exploring themes of racism and homelessness, it follows the story of an orphaned boy looking for a home in the fictional Pennsylvania town of Two Mills...
- Kyla Pratt
Kyla Alissa Pratt is an American actress and singer.-Early life:Pratt was born in Los Angeles, the oldest of five children of Kecia Pratt-McCullar, a schoolteacher, and Johnny McCullar, a semi-professional basketball player....
as Amanda Beale
- Orlando Brown
Orlando Brown is an American actor and musician. A child actor, his early roles included 3J in Family Matters, Eddie Thomas in That's So Raven, Tiger in Major Payne, and Nelson in The Jamie Foxx Show. He was also the voice of Sticky Web on the animated TV series The Proud Family...
as Mars Bar Thompson
- Rip Torn
Elmore Rual "Rip" Torn, Jr. , is an American actor of stage, screen and television.Torn received an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor for his role in the 1983 film Cross Creek. His work includes the role of Artie, the producer, on The Larry Sanders Show, for which he was nominated...
as George McNab
- Jada Pinkett Smith
Jada Koren Pinkett Smith is an American actress, producer, director, author, singer-songwriter, and businesswoman. She began her career in 1990, when she made a guest appearance in the short-lived sitcom True Colors. She starred in A Different World, produced by Bill Cosby, and she featured...
as the Narrator
- Melissa Bickerton as Dottie Freeze
The movie opens up with 12-year-old Jeffrey Lionel "Maniac" Magee is an orphan ; he can run extremely fast on railroad tracks, and comes to soothe tensions in his town of Two Mills. Two Mills is divided between the black and white people by Hector Street: blacks on East End, whites on West End. The racial tensions there, are very strong. Maniac is very confused by racial biases; to him, the people are simply people, heterogeneous but having much in common, such as kindness and cruelty.
Jeffrey's parents were killed by a drunk driver when his father had told him that he would show him his infamous "stopball". Later he has a funeral for his parents, a couple tells Jeffery to "come with them". Maniac taught himself to fly. While he was flying, though, he fell to the ground and paralyzed his wings. Then, learns how to run.
After one year of running, Jeffrey arrives in Two Mills. There, he quickly befriends numerous people on both sides of the unofficial segregation. Among them are a contemporary family of his, an African-American girl named Amanda Beale, with whose family for several seasons; James Down, known as "Hands", a football player who was vastly impressed by Jeffrey's own speed, dexterity, and agility; and the Samaritan family of Valerie Pickwell. In addition, Jeffrey proceeds to outdo a gang of bullies, sit on the doorstep of a mysterious, reclusive, and notoriously ill-tempered neighbor called Finsterwald, untie Cobbles' Knot, and stand up honestly to a black boy nicknamed Mars Bar, who covers up his own fears by frightening all other children.
Later, Jeffrey is startled into the realization of his own difference from the African-Americans with whom he lives with. As a result, he flees the town and hides in the buffalo enclosure of the local zoo. The buffaloes, a mother and a calf, accept Jeffrey freely. One day, he is room of a gymnasium, creating a nearly utopian life of interdependence and mutual learning. Jeffrey learns that Grayson was once a Minor League baseball player, forced to retire after a spectacular failure that came in the wake of a sequence of victories. Grayson, in turn, learns to read, a skill he had neglected through childhood. After Christmas, Grayson dies in his sleep.
Jeffrey, heartbroken, flees to Valley Forge and there waits to die. He is prevented from dying by two runaway boys, Piper and Russell McNab, whom he bribes into going home. While they are eating at a pizza-vendor's site in Two Mills, the boys' elder brother John appears. John is an extremely tall bully who was humiliated in a baseball game by Jeffrey, beating him. For returning the younger duo, John forgives Jeffrey and takes him home. In the McNab house, Jeffrey sees gluttony, squalor, racial prejudice, sloth, and ill-feeling in many ways. He attempts to correct the status quo by bribing the youngest McNabs into good behavior and by bringing a guest to Piper's birthday party—that guest being "Mars Bar" Thompson, the East End's harshest black kid. The introduction of Mars Bar to the McNabs seems to end in disaster, but teaches Jeffrey a valuable lesson about his friend's character.
Due to struggles that result from his unique social position—that of a homeless integrator—Jeffrey leaves the McNabs and roams all over the town, sleeping where he might and running at his own great pace through the streets in the early morning. At similar times, Mars Bar also goes running; when he meets Jeffrey, they run parallel, acknowledging one another in looks but not words.
When Jeffery comes back to East End, he sees that Mr. McNab blows up the head of the founder of East and West Ends, and the line that separated the towns disappears.
The movie closes with a group of kids finding out their friend is a daughter of Maniac Magee and they have a son named Maniac Jr., and that Amanda married Magee. The final scene shows older Magee throwing the ball to Jr., and he swings the ball with it smoking in the air.
Differences from the book
- Some of the book is cut including when Mars Bar has a conversation with Maniac
- In the book, it ends with Amanda retrieving Jeffery and telling him to be a permanent resident of the Beale family.
- In the book, Earl Grayson is a big part and character. In the movie, there is no part or appearance of Grayson.
- In the book they speak about Maniac Magee being allergic to pizza. In the movie, in no way do they mention this concept.
- In the book, Jeffery is taken to his Aunt Dot and Uncle Dan. In the movie, he is not.
According to a magizine in April 1994, Disney and Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures Corporation is an American film production and distribution company, located at 5555 Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. Founded in 1912 and currently owned by media conglomerate Viacom, it is America's oldest existing film studio; it is also the last major film studio still...
had greenlit a screenplay of Magee with Elijah Wood
Elijah Jordan Wood is an American actor. He made his film debut with a minor part in Back to the Future Part II , then landed a succession of larger roles that made him a critically acclaimed child actor by age 9. He is best known for his high-profile role as Frodo Baggins in Peter Jackson's...
tabbed to play Jeffrey. Obviously, this theatrical release never came to be, and the script sat on a shelf for 8½ years.