By: Jessica Goddard
Little is fun – which of course is film-review-speak for “a sloppily written comedy trying its best.” It’s corny, preachy, and meandering, but the energy is good and the lead performances are sharp.
A single glance at the movie’s poster easily calls to mind a reverse Big (1988) or 13 Going on 30 (2004) – for good reason. This isn’t the premise’s first rodeo. So, it’s no surprise that the most original part of Little takes place five minutes in, when 13-year-old Jordan Sanders (Marsai Martin) is bullied for her love of science in middle school and learns exactly the wrong lesson: that she too can become a bully when she grows up and is successful enough to be a boss.
And become a bully (and a big success) she does. The fully-grown Jordan (Regina Hall) goes on to found Jordan Sanders Innovations, one of Atlanta’s leading tech firms. A nightmare and a tyrant to work for, she spends her days abusing her staff, especially her assistant April (Issa Rae). Then one day, Jordan crosses the wrong little girl, who promptly curses her with a wish that she become little again. The next morning, Jordan wakes up in her 13-year-old image, unrecognizable from her formerly fabulous self, and with none of the power she had as an adult. Unfortunately, there’s still a company to run and clients to handle, so the reluctant but ambitious April is forced to step in and be the boss while the child version of Jordan is sent back to school.
Which is where the movie really loses steam, in trying to make us care about the politics of Jordan’s present-day middle school. Frankly, that’s just not the comedy audiences who saw Regina Hall and Issa Rae on the posters signed up for. At this point, Little basically transitions into a made-for-TV movie about how preteens should stand up to bullies and be “true to themselves”. The script takes some risks with humour, but the writers abuse any semblance of believability when it comes to the over-the-top cartoonishness of adult Jordan’s cruelty to her employees. Oddly, some of the jokes even seem to fall flat in the world of the movie, with ineffective one-liners just left hanging awkwardly in their scenes.
All in all, Little is nothing special. Besides being somehow both aimless and annoyingly specific in its anti-bullying takeaway, this movie is sustained by one uninspiring cliché after another. Unfortunately for the impressive cast, this iteration of the age/body switch trope is too little, too late.
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Jessica Goddard: @TheJGod