Entertainment » Movies


by Padraic Maroney
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Jun 25, 2019

Available digitally today!

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Whether it's a kid wishing to grow up to be Tom Hanks in "Big," parents switching bodies with their teens in "Freaky Friday" or "Vice Versa," or going back to relive your glory days in "17 Again," the wish fulfillment comedy premise has been done to death. The genre's latest film, "Little," doesn't attempt to add anything to the tried and true formula. But an uneven script is the film's real problem.

Opening at a middle school talent show, Jordan Sanders is a 13-year-old girl attempting to demonstrate to the rest of the school a science experiment. The performance ends up going awry when a more popular girl ends up knocking her over on stage. The humiliation — and physical wounds — lead Jordan to close herself off and re-invent herself as a badass boss girl who will bully others before they get a chance to hurt her again.

Fast forward 25 years to present day. Jordan now owns her own tech company and worships at the altar of Miranda Priestley. She is indeed the boss, ruling with fear and keeps everyone at arm's length — that includes a guy who is looking to get serious with her or any potential friends. That all changes when she crosses paths with the wrong little girl, who wishes that Jordan was young again so that she wouldn't be so mean. Lo and behold, the next day Jordan wakes up as her 13-year-old version with a 38-year-old attitude.

Regina Hall has stealthily built a career over the last two decades that makes her a welcome addition to any film. Despite being relegated to bookending the film as the adult version of Jordan, she is the film's secret weapon. While the script paints the character with overly broad strokes as a tyrannical boss that could only exist in films, Hall is able to sell the insults without appearing cartoonish and also deliver them in a way that makes it feel okay to laugh.

One person who isn't laughing is Jordan's put-upon assistant, April ("Black-ish actress Marsai Martin), who is stuck doing more than her job when she becomes a surrogate mother to younger Jordan. It's not hard to see why Issa Rae, who's reteaming with Hall here, agreed to join the cast as she begins to expand into films. It's a low-stakes role in a movie backed by Kenya Barris (creator of "Black-ish") and Will Packer ("Girl's Trip"). She also has an easy chemistry with both Hall and Martin. But based on her success on television with "Insecure," you expect more from her than a generic assistant's role.

Written by Tina Gordon, who also directs, and Tracy Oliver, "Little" feels like there are about three different movies mashed into one. Before Jordan reverts to her pint-sized version, her biggest client threatens to leave if they don't come up with a pitch to wow him within 48 hours. The workplace subplot gets put on the back burner once the switch happens. As child Jordan tries to make her way through middle school, a chance at redemption presents itself again at a pep rally. Yet, the road to that pep rally could use a little GPS, because it takes too many detours to finally arrive at the climax.

Another issue is the romantic entanglements of the leading ladies. April and her not-so-secret crush have zero chemistry, and the attraction feels forced as if it's needed in order to check off a specific box. Despite a titillating striptease by actor Luke James, Jordan's man should have also been left on the editing room floor. Justin Hartley, featured heavily in the trailer, plays the teacher that younger Jordan lusts after. He offers some laughs but disappears after his initial scenes — even though the climax of the film takes place at the school.

Being formulaic isn't always a problem by itself — look at almost any superhero movie. There's a tried and true formula that is usually followed. But in the case of "Little," the film starts out with loads of promise that is quickly squandered by the end of the first act. Too much is going on and the laughs dry up way too early. Frankly, there's just too little here to get you excited.

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