Review: Little (2019)

Little (2019)

Directed by: Tina Gordon Chism | 108 minutes | comedy, fantasy | Actors: Regina Hall, Issa Rae, Marsai Martin, Justin Hartley, Tracee Ellis Ross, Tone Bell, Mikey Day, JD McCrary, Tucker Meek, Thalia Tran, Marley Taylor, Eva Carlton, Luke James, Rachel Dratch, Noree Victoria, Kendra L Franklin, Marc Hawes, Jade Fernandez

Just thirteen years old, Marsai Martin became the youngest ever executive producer in Hollywood. A few years earlier, on the set of the TV series ‘Black-ish’ in which she has one of the leading roles, she had an idea for a film about an adult woman who wakes up one day in the body of a child. If that sounds familiar to you, then it might be true: Martin got her idea after seeing the Tom Hanks classic ‘Big’ (1988) and named her project ‘Little’. We also saw the body swap theme – in various variants – in ‘Freaky Friday’ (2003), ’13 Going on 30′ (2004) and ’17 Again’ (2009). So not very original, although ‘Little’ (2019) is the first film in the subgenre in which the leading roles are played by African-American actors. And it’s absolutely cool that a young girl like Martin managed to see her idea developed into a complete feature film. The very young multi-talented is not only involved in the film as a producer, but also plays one of the leading roles in addition to Regina Hall and Issa Rae.

‘Little’ opens with a flashback to the high school years of Jordan Sanders (the younger version is played by Marsai Martin). With her huge head of unruly hair, thick jam jar glasses and high grades, she’s an easy target for bullies. However, she clings to the idea that once she is rich and successful, she will take her revenge. Fast forward to the present tense. From victim, Jordan (now played by Regina Hall) has become a bully himself. She is a very successful businesswoman, with an impressive apartment and a walk-in closet, but she doesn’t have many friends. To avoid being humiliated again as she was in her youth, she puts up her spines all the time: she is unkind, aloof and downright rude. She treats her staff like a broom; especially her personal assistant April (Issa Rae) regularly suffers. When she slaps a young girl who plays with a magic wand, this Stevie (Marley Taylor) wishes Jordan to turn into her young self in order to teach her a lesson. And damn, the next morning Jordan does indeed wake up in the body of her thirteen-year-old self. Initially she refuses to accept the change, but her designer clothes no longer fit her, her sports car is no longer allowed to drive, her daily rosé consumption is a thing of the past and her staff has no intention of listening to a child. When a neighbor sends youth care to her, Jordan’s worst fear comes true: she has to go back to school. April, meanwhile, acts as her guardian, and since it gives her access to Jordan’s clothes, car, and liquor cabinet, she takes it.

To get straight to the point: Marsai Martin is the best ‘Little’ has to offer. She manages to convey with reasonable credibility that she is an old spirit in a young body and that she is deeply frustrated that she can no longer control the will of the adults around her. As is the case in these kinds of films, the rejuvenation trick is used to teach the main character a wise lesson. Because taking revenge on your environment because you were bullied in the past, by wrestling yourself through life as an insufferable tyrant, is of course not the right way. Although screenwriters Tina Gordon (who also directs) and Tracy Oliver put that message on their thumbs. The humor in ‘Little’ is not always subtle, but here and there a nice joke is hidden. On the other hand, there are a number of inexplicable slips (the ‘spontaneous’ eruption in a hotel bar, for example, or the montage of costume scenes with the young Jordan and her new friends, fellow outcasts Riana, Isaac and Devon). Issa Rae’s role is also not completely out of the picture, although that is not due to the efforts of the actress. But April’s personal development isn’t as satisfying as you’d like. Regina Hall’s potential as an actress is also not fully exploited.

Despite its flaws, ‘Little’ is an easy-to-watch movie. The fact that Gordon follows well-trodden paths and does not get the most out of it by a long shot, we put aside for the hour and a half that the film lasts. And the film almost entirely thanks to Marsai Martin.

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