In case you weren’t feeling like you haven’t accomplished enough in your life, Marsai Martin, who is just 14, is now officially the youngest person ever to executively produce a Hollywood film. So. There’s that.
“Little” is the story of a shrill executive (Regina Hall) who is transformed into the 13-year-old version of herself (Marsai Martin) and must work with her assistant (Issa Rae) to get back to normal. Tina Gordon directs and co-wrote the script.
She may be one of the hottest commodities on the market right now thanks to her hit HBO show “Insecure” but this actually marks the first feature that Issa Rae has been front-and-center for. Her natural awkward charm has skyrocketed her career in the last two years so it surely won’t be the last time we see her but it is nice to finally have her carrying a film (I’ve followed her and “Insecure” for a while now off the tip of a friend, she’s so damn entertaining). I wish that she had chosen a vehicle fully worthy of her talents, but her chemistry with Marsai Martin is often enough to hold this film above water when the script and editing falter.
One of the things I liked about this film was that Regina Hall and Martin actually seem like they could be the same person. Hall is sarcastic and tosses insults out at her employees, and we’ve seen on (the criminally underappreciated) “Black-ish” that Martin knows how to be dry and evil. So unlike other body-switching comedies (*cough* “Shazam!”), the adult and the child who are supposed to be the same person actually share personality traits and when one transforms into the other, they don’t suddenly become an entirely different human being.
Martin and Rae (who by the way, owns the best smile in Hollywood) have an easy chemistry together, due in-part to having contrasting delivery styles. One is quick, the other slow and exacting, so there are some good moments of give-and-take. The scene from the trailer where Rae is trying to spank Martin in the parking lot is probably the highlight of the film, and makes me wish there was more physical comedy involving the pair.
And really the performances and overall heart of the film are what hold it up, because the screenplay and editing, as with most films produced by Will Packer (“Night School,” “Ride Along,” etc), are lacking. Midway through the second act, Gordon and co-writer Tracy Oliver clearly run out of things for the characters to do, and start having random scenes to act as filler before the inevitable climax. There is a sideplot about how Hall’s company has 48 hours to impress one of their clients, except when he shows up two days later the film says he was there early and there is still 24 hours left in the deal? Things like this just make you look lazy. There is also an entire other subplot involving Hall’s bootycall boyfriend wanting to be a father that adds nothing to the plot except pointless runtime.
The editing is also subpar, holding on shots too long to produce awkward pauses and beats, and having nonsensical cuts. There is one scene in a restaurant that jumps straight from a conversation to a musical number, except there is no transition and characters seem shocked that other people are in new locations; it’s one of those edits that, like in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” your brain just knows something is off.
Also, I can’t prove it, but I’m fairly certain there is a shot where a character slams a door and the entire wall shakes like jelly because it’s a thin prop. Again, just lazy filmmaking.
“Little” is perfectly fine enough and for the first half I was actually having a pretty decent time. It isn’t an actual bad film like Packer’s “Night School” or “Ride Along” series, but given the cast it should have been better. Its target audience will love it so for that reason I suppose its a success, but having been a fan of Rae for two years I just want to see her get a comedy vehicle that is worthy of her talents. As far as breezy spring entertainment goes, this fits the bill just fine, but there is an overall sense of “I will not remember this by the time I get to my car” that hangs over the entire film.
Critic’s Rating: 5/10