Young Marsai Martin is a charmer, all right. The "Black-ish" standout can't save this comedy from itself, though.
The “Big”/”Vice Versa”/”17 Again”/”13 Going on 30” shtick never gets old.
Heck, the latest superhero film clings to the template like Glad Wrap. Just say, “Shazam” and a feisty foster kid is suddenly huuuuuge.
It’s a quick, easy blueprint. Kids either find themselves as an adult all of a sudden … or the reverse takes hold.
“Little” runs with the concept alongside an undeniable fact. Its trio of stars is too good to ignore. The film itself is another matter. Younger viewers will push past the obvious storytelling tics and lack of belly laughs.
There’s still cause for concern for the wee ones, though.
Regina Hall’s Jordan Sanders has it all. She’s an uber-successful business woman with a personal assistant, a company all her own and even a boy toy.
She’s still unhappy and mean as a snake. Think that Anaconda which chased J Lo and Jon Voight a few years ago. It’s one problem the film struggles to overcome. More on that in a moment.
One day, courtesy of a clumsy plot device, Jordan wakes up as a her 13-year-old self (“Black-ish” charmer Marsai Martin). Now, she’s unable to run her business, relax with the aforementioned boy toy or do much of anything adult-ish.
She’s left with all the insecurities a pre-teen can offer, though. And that’s considerable.
FAST FACT: Young Marsai Martin not only stars in “Little” but has an executive producer credit as well.
Now, her assistant (the beguiling Issa Rae) must keep young Jordan happy AND keep her company afloat when a key client threatens to bail.
Along the way young Jordan will flirt with that Boy Toy (Luke James) as well as her “new” school teacher (Justin Hartley, “A Bad Mom’s Christmas”).
The girl’s “lust” is played for laughs, but the theme recurs enough to make some parents squirm. The film otherwise doles out empowerment lessons, the beauty of fending off bullies and other positive themes.
Why go so creepy, so often?
That’s especially true given the script’s weak tea template. There’s a love story for Rae’s bedraggled character, but it’s merely a waste of Tone Bell (“Dog Days”). The scramble to find a big pitch to save the company is such a yawn you wonder why they bothered to bring it up.
A musical number comes out of nowhere and retreats just as swiftly. Just what … was … that?
And on and on.
And are we really eager to forgive and forget what a monster the adult Jordan is?
For every story misfire there’s always Rae, Martin and Hall. They’re all excellent here, particularly the Rae-Martin exchanges. Child actors range wildly in talent and charisma. Young Martin generates both without arching an eyebrow. But when she does … look out.
Every adult looks back at their teen years with a mixture of envy and regret. “Little” taps into that commonality, but beyond its pinpoint casting does little else to buoy the timeless format.
HiT or Miss: If you’re a sucker for body-switching comedies, “Little” offers just enough pleasures for you. Otherwise, it’s better consumed as a streaming second choice (at best).