The Runaway Times

Brandon Douglas and Larry B. Scott in The Children of Times Square (1986)

Eric (Brandon Douglas) just wants to be a normal teen, go out with his friends and have fun. Unfortunately for Eric after his parents divorced his mum remarried and now he has a dictatorial stepfather who makes it very clear he doesn't want Eric living with them. After the latest incident Eric runs away and lands up in Times Square where he eventually ends up being befriended by The Leopards, a group of teens like him who have ended up working for Otis (Howard E. Rollins Jr.) a cocaine dealer. Eric is not the only one who ends up working for Otis as Luis Sotavento (Danny Nucci) has also joined the gang as when a fire left him and his family living in a shelter he has sought out a way to make money quick to get them a home of their own again.

Quite early on in "The Children of Times Square" there is a scene between Eric and his stepfather where basically the teen is told he doesn't have a say in things and his opinion doesn't count. The stepfather is such a nasty piece of work to Eric that he is two things; a real dick but also a little unreal making it this TV movie feel a little too forced when it comes to establishing character types. The thing is that "The Children of Times Square" is one of those cautionary, made for TV movies from the 80s where to get the point across the director seems obliged to use a sledge hammer. A fact which is surprising as "The Children of Times Square" was written and directed by Curtis Hanson who following this with movies such as "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle", "In Her Shoes" and "8 Mile".

The thing is that when you look past the era production issues which present themselves when you watch "The Children of Times Square" now it does try and make some interesting points, a cautionary tale for those who are thinking of running away from home to the big city. We see how the naive Eric almost falls foul of a dirty old man with a thing for young boys, we also see how he finds the support and friendship he didn't have at home in the fellowship of the Leopards and so on. It uses Luis to show that this can happen to anyone and to be honest to stop the story becoming negatively monotonous. And we also see the various systems from Otis using under age boys as they can't be prosecuted to the shelters for runaway teens where those running them try to provide security for not only those living rough but those doing so due to abuse back home.

What this all boils down to is that the best I can say is that "The Children of Times Square" is a typical cautionary tale from the 80s which tries to show what can happen to children when they runaway to the city but also explaining why some do because of their home life and why some fall in with a bad crowd because of desperation. It means that watched now 30 years later it is all a bit too forced but also interesting seeing that this was written and directed by Curtis Hanson.

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