Maniac Magee (film)

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Maniac Magee
Distributed by Nickelodeon
Directed by Bob Clark
Produced by Michael Nolin
Jack Zurla
Mark Zaslove
Written by Jerry Spinelli
Michael Nolin
Jack Zurla
Mark Zaslove
Starring Michael Angarano
Orlando Brown
Kyla Pratt
Music by Jim Lathan
Cinematography Marshall Adams
Budget none
Country United States
Language English
Release date February 23, 2003 (2003-02-23)

Maniac Magee is a 2003 television film made for the Nickelodeon network, based on the book about 12-year-old Jeffrey Lionel "Maniac" Magee, an orphaned runaway with many extraordinary and athletic talents, who arrives in a town divided with racial conflict. The film appears to be set in the 1980s or shortly afterwards; the book was released in 1990.



Main article: Maniac Magee

The movie opens with 12-year-old Jeffrey Lionel "Maniac" Magee as an orphan. Maniac can run extremely fast on railroad tracks. Hector Street divides Two Mills by race: blacks on East End, whites on West End. The racial tensions are very strong. Maniac is confused by racial biases; to him, the people are simply people - heterogeneous, but with much in common, such as both kindness and cruelty.

Jeffrey's parents were killed by a drunk driver just after his father told him that he would show him his infamous "stopball." After his parents' funeral, a couple tells Jeffery to "come with them." Maniac taught himself to fly and learns how to run.

After one year of running, Jeffrey arrives in Two Mills and quickly befriends people on both sides of the unofficial segregation line. Among them are an African-American family with a girl his age named Amanda Beale, with whom he lives for a while. He also meets James Down (known as "Hands") a football player impressed by Jeffrey's own speed, dexterity, and agility.

Later, the racial intolerance he encounters prompts Jeffrey to realize that the Beale family is different from him.

As a result, Jeffrey, heartbroken, flees to Valley Forge and there waits to die. He is prevented from dying by two runaway boys, Piper and Russell McNab, whom he bribes into leaving Valley Forge and going home. While they are eating at a pizza restaurant in Two Mills, the boys' older brother John appears. John is a tall bully who was humiliated in a baseball game by Jeffrey, who was the only kid who could hit John's fastballs. For returning the younger duo, John forgives Jeffrey and takes him home. In the McNab house, Jeffrey sees gluttony, squalor, racial prejudice, and sloth.

Due to struggles that result from his unique social position — that of a homeless integrator — Jeffrey leaves the McNabs and roams all over the town, sleeping where he might and running at his own great pace through the streets in the early morning. During his runs, he sees Mars Bar again, who also runs early in the morning. The two run next to each other in silence, acknowledging one another through looks but not words.

The movie closes with a group of kids finding out their friend is a daughter of Maniac Magee and they have a son named Maniac Jr., and that Amanda married Magee. The final scene shows older Magee throwing the ball to Junior, and he swings the ball with it smoking in the air.

Differences from the book[edit]

  • Some of the book is cut including when Mars Bar has a conversation with Maniac
  • In the book, it ends with Amanda retrieving Jeffrey and telling him to be a permanent resident of the Beale family.
  • In the book, Earl Grayson is a big part and character. In the movie, there is no part or appearance of Grayson.


According to a magazine[clarification needed] in April 1994, Disney and Paramount Pictures had greenlit a screenplay of Magee with Elijah Wood tabbed to play Jeffrey. Obviously, this theatrical release never came to be, and the script sat on a shelf for 8½ years[citation needed].

External links[edit]