Little Hits it Big Thanks To its Hilarious Performances
DIRECTED BY TINA GORDON / 2019
Every film involving a mystical body-swap (save those by David Cronenberg) contains some sort of trite message. Little is no exception. Happily, this new comedy has enough charm, humor and energy to overcome the limitations of a story we’ve seen so many times before. Little is a big delight, and it’s all thanks to its winning cast.
Regina King (Support the Girls, The Hate U Give) plays Jordan Sanders, the tyrannical boss of a tech firm that’s about to lose its biggest client. Her client gives her just 48 hours to come up with a new app that will wow him, or else he walks, taking a large chunk of the firm’s business with him. This adds to the considerable amount of pressure Jordan usually finds herself dealing with, and she takes it out on her staff- especially her harried assistant April (Issa Rae, The Hate U Give, Insecure).
This new comedy has enough charm, humor and energy to overcome the limitations of [its] story
Jordan’s problems are multiplied when she berates a young girl for pretending to do magic. The girl angrily places a curse on Jordan, and as happens in these movies- the curse actually works! Jordan wakes up the next morning as her 13-year old self, now played by young Marsai Martin (Black-ish). Will Little use this story as an opportunity to deliver a heart-warming message about never letting go of your inner child? I hope so. I need to be reminded of that because it’s been so long since I’ve seen Big, or Like Father Like Son or 30 Going on 13 or… well, you get the picture.
Retreading worn material like that, coupled with nonsensical story beats (why, exactly, does she need to go to school?) would spell a dull, dreary time at the movies. But I had a great time watching it. That’s entirely due to the performances of everyone in the cast, who all give 100% to their roles. The three main leads in particular, Rae, King, and Martin, are remarkable in how much energy and humor they bring to the story.
Little postulates that the reason Jordan is such a monster is that she was bullied as a child. When then-13-year-old Jordan attempts to share her love of science, the other kids target her mercilessly. So she learns that when she grows up, “I can be the boss, and no one will bully me.” As a result, Jordan decides to play the part of a tyrannical abuser, walling off her inner emotional life so that she can never be bullied again.
If the film has anything to say about the pressures women face in the workforce- especially in tech, and especially in positions of power in tech- its message there is far more muted. That’s a missed opportunity on the part of the filmmakers, since comedy can drive a point home with more precision and impact than any other genre. The broader culture is attempting to have a conversation about the issues women face, and its hard going because too many people are convinced that there aren’t any issues at all.
I was laughing out loud throughout
But within the safe boundaries that Little sets up for itself, it’s a good time at the movies. Little doesn’t show a lot of originality, nor does it engage with any sort of serious message. But I don’t find any real fault with it, since I was laughing out loud throughout. Sure, it’s just junk food cinema, full of empty calories, but let’s face it, what kid doesn’t like junk food? My inner child was eating this up, and was completely satisfied with the experience. And didn’t the movie say something about letting your inner child loose every now and again?