The First of May (review)

As undemanding family fare goes, the best you can hope for is that you don’t want to shoot yourself when it’s over, and by that measure, this gentle if unprepossessing flick succeeds. Even if it is completely preposterous. Eleven-year-old ward-of-the-state Cory (Dan Byrd) runs away from the nice foster home he’s been living (he thinks his guardians are about to give him back to the orphanage) to, quite literally, join the circus with spunky old coot Carlotta (Julie Harris), a nursing home inmate he has befriended and taken to calling “Grandma” — she tells wonderful stories of life on the road, with elephants and the big top, from her youth. Before the circus, though, they start their own fresh-baked halvah business. Really. You’ve also got Mickey Rooney (Night at the Museum) as the circus owner and Charles Nelson Reilly as an aging clown… yeah, it’s a crying-on-the-inside kind of family comedy. Winner of Best of the Fest at the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival — which must be quite a few years ago now, since the film dates from 1999 — this is an often amateurish work, but a sincerely offered one. Also included is the theatrical trailer (not that it ever enjoyed a theatrical release) and a tribute to Joe DiMaggio, who appears, in his final time onscreen, in a superfluous cameo giving Cory tips on playing baseball.

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