by Hope Madden
Based on a concept by 14 year-old executive producer and star Marsai Martin (Black-ish), the comeuppance comedy Little flips the script on the Tom Hanks Eighties adventure in manhood, Big.
We open with Martin as Jordan Sanders at 13, a science nerd who takes a chance at the talent show to win over the Windsor Middle School student body. When she fails, she pins her dreams on one day being an adult who bullies everyone else before they can bully her.
Flash forward 25 years. Jordan (now Regina Hall) is a monster boss, terrorizing the developers at her tech firm and making life especially miserable for her assistant, April (Insecure‘s Issa Rae). Can some carbs and a little magic return Jordan to her adolescent form so she can unlearn the lesson that sent her life in the wrong direction?
It’s a slight story, penned from Martin’s idea by director Tina Gordon and co-writer Tracy Oliver (Girls Trip). The two choose not to represent bullying as anything other than a fact of life to be tolerated, but they do layer in some silly fun and spots of surprising humor, mainly thanks to the strength of the two leads.
Rae charms throughout the film. Her smile and energy shine, and she offers natural chemistry with both adult and teen versions of her boss. Rae brings a reluctant but earnest sense of compassion to the role, and her comic timing is spot on.
Martin is the film’s real star. She carries scenes with a clever knack for portraying an adult brain inside a child’s form. The physical performance amuses, but it’s really the way she delivers sly lines with a saucy look or toss of the head that brings a chuckle.
It would be tough for this film to be more predictable, but several side characters—a social services agent (Rachel Dracht) and dreamy 7th grade teacher (Justin Hartley) work wonders with their odd characters and limited screen time.
The plotting is pretty sloppy and at no point does the comedy draw more than a chuckle, but Little is an amusing if forgettable waste of time. Martin is someone to remember, though.