Sunday, July 7, 2019

Video review: "Little"

If there’s such a thing as “failing upward” in showbiz, then “Little” is it.

Hollywood would seem to be the consummate meritocracy. You make good movies that make money, people will like you and you’ll get to keep doing it. Make three bombs in a row – or, if you’re a female director, just one – and it’s a Hulu series for you.

Marsai Martin was just 10 years old when she pitched the idea of this movie, which is basically a remake of “Big” with Tom Hanks in reverse, to one of the producers on her TV show “Blackish.” Not only is she the star, but now 14 is the youngest executive producer, ever.

She’s an adorable screen presence and, I hope, has a big future. But “Little” is just aggressively bad.

The setup is that Jordan Sanders (Regina Hall) is the head of a tech start-up company, and she’s a steaming pile of rhymes-with-spit. She bullies her employees, treats everyone she meets as the hired help, and even keeps her erstwhile boyfriend (Luke James) in perpetual dangle mode.

One wave of a magic wand later, and Jordan wakes up occupying her 13-year-old body: skinny as a whip, a nimbus of frizzy hair and giant geek glasses. For most people, reliving their adolescence is almost worse than a death sentence.

But thanks to her giant personality and giant-er ego, Jordan crushes the school scene and soon moves on to running her business through the help of April Williams (Issa Rae), her much put-upon right-hand woman. Soon a sisterly vibe starts building, a life lessons shall be learned.

Directed by Tina Gordon from a screenplay she wrote with Tracy Oliver, “Little” takes a scattershot approach – like a musical number that comes out of nowhere – or just falls back on over-the-top tropes. Not to mention the fact little Jordan seems to have all the sexual proclivity of her grownup version, which leads to some downright creepy scenarios, like hitting on her middle-school teacher (Justin Hartley).

I like Hall, Rae and Martin as screen presences, but I’d rather see them do just about anything else but get “Little.”

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