This has been a great month for movies about people magically changing age. First Shazam!, and now Little. I had been a little nervous, given how comedies tend to pack the trailers with the best scenes and leave little else to the imagination, but I was pleasantly surprised to find Little to be a fun movie, even if it follows a tried-and-true comedic formula.
Ever since a traumatic talent show moment changed nerdy young Jordan Sanders’ (Regina Hall) life, she vowed to use her intelligence to become to the boss so that she could bully others before they bullied her. Flash forward to the modern day, and her assistant April Williams (Issa Rae) is fed up with having to tiptoe around the lavish and temperamental Sanders at her tech company.
A caustic encounter at a donut truck causes a little girl to make a wish for Sanders to be little, and I’m sure you can tell where this is going. Regina Hall transforms into the incredibly talented Marsai Martin, who is promptly ordered to report to middle school, leaving April to balance Sanders’ company with trying to find the little girl who started everything to undo the spell.
Little doesn’t break any new story ground, it’s a standard tale about how learning to accept yourself and making mistakes is vital to becoming a well-rounded, functional adult. Where Little shines is in the charm and charisma of its leads. Regina Hall is over-the-top and cartoonish, but it’s clear she’s loving every minute of what she’s doing and that energy gets passed on to the audience. Issa Rae’s April plays the role of the straight woman in the comedy duo, and it’s fun to see her relish the change in the power dynamic between her and her boss once she’s the only adult in the room.
But the real standout star of Little is Marsai Martin, who serves as the film’s executive producer(!) and is clearly destined for greatness. I’m almost regretting cutting the cord at this point since now I’m realizing I definitely missed out by not tuning in to ABC’s Black-ish, the show where Martin had her first big break. Movies where adults become kids and vise-versa live and die on the suspension of disbelief that two actors are playing one character. When most of the film is a child becoming an adult, like Shazam! or Big, an actor with years of experience gets to pretend they’re young again. But with the reverse, you’re pinning a lot of faith on a child actor to be able to portray a role they’ve yet to experience. Marsai Martin not only rises to the challenge of being the little incarnation of Hall’s Jordan, but crushes it.
Outside of the three leads, there isn’t too much else to write home about. The depictions of both Jordan’s tech company and middle school are surface level, basically existing as places for the main characters to interact. Apart from the new friends Jordan makes, the side characters are just foils for Jordan and April to bounce the plot off of, which is too bad. There’s a lot of heart in the way the story is told, and there are a lot of genuinely funny moments. I just wish that the story elements had either taken us somewhere new or done something different with the ‘back to middle school’ plot.
Despite that, I’d still recommend seeing Little. There’s enough charm and talent to make it worth your while, and despite Jordan’s start as a tyrannical boss from hell, it’s largely a good spirited and fun movie that largely makes humor from situational awkwardness and wit, something that’s always great to see in a comedy. If you’re dying to get to the theater before it gets taken over by the bigger and louder films of the summer, you could do much worse than Little.
Little is short on story innovation but packed full of big talent and heart.