Jack Crabb is 121 years old. And he’s done it all. He’s been a full-fledged Cheyenne, an Indian fighter, a snake oil merchant, master gunman, drinking buddy of wild Bill Hickok, colleague of Buffalo Bill, and is the only survivor of Custer’s Last Stand. Little Big Man is Jack Crabb’s story.
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It has its moments, but is overlong to the point of being trying. A fine comic performance from Dustin Hoffman, and cinematographer Harry Stradling lenses some striking images of the West; but the whole film has a breezy, light-hearted tone that just makes things awkward when it tries to take a serious turn. An ambitious, but muddled effort. Great folk score by John Paul Hammond.
I admire it's attempt to cover a broad range of tones and emotions, from satire to tragedy, but at what cost. As it is, none of these different episodes are given time to have an impact or develop, the transitions between these tonal shifts are often jarring and the film is full of episodes that either go absolutely nowhere or don't seem to add much. It felt like a case of too much variety, quantity over quality.
Muddled but fitfully entertaining revisionist western that sometimes delves too deeply into its revisionist fervor that it forgets to spin an entertaining yarn. It's much more fun to talk about what this movie is trying to SAY than it is to actually watch, which isn't necessarily a bad thing if you love to analyze movies. Still, Hoffman in his prime is always a treat.
The bits involving the Cheyennes and Chief Dan George are the best. This is because they are played straight, not for laughs as are the bits featuring the ridiculous, bumbling antics of the clownish white folks. As history goes it's nearly useless. As entertainment, it's way too long. Killer music track by John Hammond.
Both darkly funny and achingly sad throughout most of the film. Dustin Hoffman is great as the 121 Jack Crabb who tells of his unbelievable exploits--living with the Cheyenne, meeting Wild Bill Hickock, attempting to assassinate General Custer. Richard Mulligan is equally great as the crazy General Custer as is Chief Dan George as Jack Crabb's adopted Cheyenne Grandfather.
Old Lodge Skins: Let's go back to the teepee and eat, my son. My new snake wife cooks dog very well.
Jack Crabb: All right, Grandfather.
Old Lodge Skins: She also has a very soft skin. The only trouble with snake women is they copulate with horses, which makes them strange to me. She say's she doesn't. That's why I call her "Doesn't Like Horses". But, of course, she's lying.
I felt the story was a bit rushed. It almost seemed for a while like a summary of Jack Crabb's life, seeming to skim over the surface of details I wish would've gone into detail. However, I liked it more as it went on. I loved the scene where Jack and Olga are going west and they're getting attacked by Indians, Sunshine's death was hard hitting, and I love the music.