The premise of Tatum O’Neal and Kristy McNichol’s Little Darlings was controversial in 1980 and might be even more controversial now, centering on a bet between two young teenage girls about who would lose their virginity first at summer camp. In fact, when Little Darlings was recut for TV broadcast (without the input of director Ron Maxwell), all sex-related scenes or dialogue hinting at sex was removed completely, turning it into a toothless story about teen crushes. (A year later, “Goin’ All The Way,” a film with a very similar premise about a virginal teen boy, was released - without nearly the same level of controversy, of course.)
You may think Little Darlings is a raunchy sex comedy like American Pie, but it’s actually a secretly sweet and sensitive coming of age film…like American Pie! Strong performances from Tatum O’Neal and especially Kristy McNichol help make this the rare sex comedy of its era with a female point of view and female agency. To paraphrase the tagline on the poster: don’t let this film’s reputation fool you.