North Avenue Irregulars [1979]

Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime
Typical of Disney's 1970s output, this squeaky-clean comic adventure about a group of church volunteers and soccer moms who take on local gangsters is packed with slapstick humor, sight gags, and nonlethal car crashes. Curiously enough, it's based on the true story of Reverend Albert Fay Hill, who wrote a book about his efforts to stop mob-run gambling in his city. Edward Herrmann plays the fictionalized Presbyterian minister Mike Hill, a soft-spoken widower with two kids who ruffles the feathers of the dedicated church secretary (Susan Clark) when he organizes a group of women to help the Treasury Department catch the bookies in the act. The mobsters are more Damon Runyon than John Gotti: no one gets hurt and everything ends in a demolition derby free-for-all as the suburban-lady volunteers play bumper cars with the mobsters. There's a potentially fascinating story in there that Disney keeps a G-rated cap on (though seeing Karen Valentine swingin' her booty under the cover of pounds of makeup and a little halter top is a surprise in a family film), but it's a harmless little comedy enlivened by plucky performances by Barbara Harris and Cloris Leachman and a fun turn by Ruth Buzzie as a church elder with a CB-radio handle. --Sean Axmaker

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