“Little” (Rated T)
Cast: Regina Hall, Issa Rae, Marsai Martin
Genre: Fantasy Comedy
With the final season of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” upon us, and today’s big premiere of the much-anticipated “Avengers: End Game”, it seems that currently the entertainment world can focus on little else.
But if those two don’t really float your boat, and the season and series finales rolling in now on network TV for “May Sweeps” aren’t your thing either, then perhaps you should try reading a book. ‘Cause if you’d thought the new comedy “Little” might have been something to tide you over between “Us” and “End Game” (or if “End Game” is completely sold out this weekend), think again! Just walk or even run away!
Yes, those commercials and trailers look so hilarious. But alas, those are pretty much ALL the good jokes. Otherwise, the film is more than a “little” confused about what it intends to be.
Jordan (Regina Hall) is a take-no-prisoners tech mogul who torments her long-suffering assistant, April (Issa Rae), and the rest of her employees on a daily basis. She soon faces an unexpected threat to her personal life and career when she magically transforms into a 13-year-old version of herself right before a do-or-die presentation. Jordan will now need to rely on April more than ever – if April is willing to stop treating Jordan like a 13-year-old child who has an attitude problem.
So, lots of similar films come to mind here. It’s like a reverse “Big”, or any of the countless movies in which adults, after some mysterious event, are transformed into babies, or dogs, or cars. It also feels like Mel Gibson’s “What Women Want”, or Taraji P. Henson’s pretty lousy version of that movie from a few months ago, “What Men Want”. And thus, there’s a pronounced feeling of familiarity, or even “we’ve seen this all before”.
But the biggest problem is “Little” is promoted as an adult comedy. It’s not! Well, most of the time, it’s not. It’s pretty much a preteen version of “Mean Girls”, tackling the cruel and judgmental world of middle school.
Huh? That’s not what many seeing those trailers signed up for. And the initial sexiness and sexual humor before Jordan becomes a little kid again does not mesh well with the preteen angst that follows. And because child Jordan is 13, not 16 or even 15, it’s just plain awkward and creepy. The scenes with the adults are too adult for children.
Who would allow a child to watch such a film? It’s rated “PG-13”, and “T” in The Bahamas – people 15 and above do not need adult supervision. But there were kids much younger during the viewing I attended! And if you’re in a theater, you’ll feel like a pervert as you hear their weird little high-pitched laughter at scenarios you know they do not quite fully understand as yet.
Even worse though, the scenes with the children are painful and ridiculous, and will only entertain the most easily entertained children.
This should have been two different movies. “Little” possibly could have worked as a kid’s film – had it been de-sexed, and some of the language toned down a bit. But there’s no way it is even approaching something successful at trying to be both. TV shows on Disney Channel and Nickelodeon do a better job at presenting something palatable to different age groups simultaneously.
It doesn’t even make sense to mention the preposterousness of the whole age transformation thing. Even if the picture were spectacular, this probably would have been its weakest link. But it wouldn’t have mattered. However, here, it is even dumber than you could ever expect.
The only saving grace is the cast. What a beautiful and talented group of actors – who all deserve so much better! Regina Hall, one of the most underrated actresses today, is fun to watch.
But it’s the two actresses from two of TV’s best sitcoms who really show just how ready they’ll be for the big screen whenever their television series come to an end. Rae, co-creator and star of HBO’s “Insecure”, and young Marsai Martin from “Blackish”, in her feature film debut, do their best with this wonky material. Martin, especially, proves what “Blackish” fans have known for years; she is a young talent to watch.
See “Little” if only to watch how these actresses try their best to transcend these wasted opportunities. But you’d do better by watching their previous or current work.
If you don’t already (and if you don’t, what exactly is wrong with you?) binge the very-adult “Insecure” and see Rae really shine, and watch Martin as the ultimate scene-stealer in “Blackish” – a show that could teach “Little” a thing or two about making a film that can appeal to people of all age groups simultaneously.
• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email email@example.com and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.