Sunday, 28 April 2019

Review: Little

Cert: 12A / 109 mins / Dir. Tina Gordon / Trailer

It would be slightly disingenuous to say that the bodyswap comedy is undergoing something of a resurgence at the moment, given that it's actually a fairly timeless and popular format. From Hal Roach's Turnabout in 1940 right up to Shazam! playing in the screen next door, inhabiting the body of a stranger for humorous effect is a well-trodden yet reliable way of spinning a fun yarn. Which makes you wonder how hard it must be to get that wrong.


Regina Hall plays Jordan Sanders, the high-powered CEO of a cutting edge tech-firm. Routinely bullish to her employees and those who surround her, she runs up against a young girl in the parking lot who is an aspiring illusionist. In a throwaway fit of pique, Jordan is cursed to be 'little', puts this out of her mind, yet awakes the following morning in the body of her 13yr old self (Marsai Martin). Using Jordan's long-suffering assistant April (Issa Rae) as a go-between, little-Jordan has to juggle a critical business deal, explain her youthful presence in the world and search for a way to fix the mess in which she finds herself.

The film opens with a flashback as Jordan recounts a tale from her early adolescence. The faux-retro setting, voiceover and freeze-frame devices are all reminiscent of My Name Is Earl and instantly set a familiarly warm tone for a self-effacing tale of self-improvement. Also, this is where the fun ends - hope you enjoyed it.

Little is almost inexplicably bad. Although naturally, I'm going to explain it anyway…


Despite vague references to sex, drugs and paedophilia of all things (yes, really), Little is a Nickelodeon TV movie which has somehow been scheduled in cinemas*1. It's almost like no one has actually compared the final product against what it was supposed to be. Over-directed out of all proportion, the film talks about Business™ and tech firms like it's been written by someone who's only ever seen The Intern and The Internship. And if those your your baseline...

When the switch finally occurs (and this takes far to long to arrive), we get a sequence of Jordan waking up in a different body and not instantly noticing what's happened. And that's fine, it's part of the comedic pacing. But rather than deliver this joke then move on, co-writers Tracy Oliver and Tina Gordon (the latter also helming the project) drag this out past all credibility - yes, even for a film which is essentially an absurdist fantasy.

This part of the movie glides casually past explaining why Jordan a) gets up and goes straight to work in her pyjamas and dressing gown, b) does this without noticing they no longer fit her, c) doesn't realise just by walking around that she's a foot and a half shorter than she was yesterday, d) finally sees herself in the mirror and while being shocked at the child staring back at her - apparently doesn't recognise her 13yr old self. She just thinks she's in the body of some random kid. Because by age 38, she's forgotten what she used to look like, despite the film showing us that she does actually possess a photo of herself at this earlier age. Jordan Sanders is a fucking idiot.


The film has the audacity to quip about white people in formulaic bodyswap comedy movies, seemingly unaware that ethnicity counts for nothing when your film is demonstrably below average in every way. The script consists largely of shrieking and an "Oh, hell no!" delivery which does neither the performers nor the audience any favours. And although fleeting, the 'space force' joke is almost as excruciating as the 'snowflake' jibe in Daddy's Home 2 or the 'nasty woman' in Fallen Kingdom. Seriously, can screenwriters just fucking not?

By the time we sidle around to the 'loser-club' subplot at mini-Jordan's school, Little becomes a School Of Rock cover-version performed by someone who's heard of School Of Rock but has never seen School Of Rock. It's excruciating and thoroughly unnecessary. I was one of the geek-crowd at school and even I'd flamethrower this fucking lot.


Am I getting too angry about this? No. No I am not. Little is a badly-made film on entirely practical levels, too…

EXHIBIT A: In a pre-swap scene to establish an early-morning routine which the film later ignores, the adult-Jordan knocks some pill bottles*2 from her bedside cabinet upon waking, then struggles to get her feet into her slippers which are placed 'too far' from the bedside. We get a close-up shot of her comedic exertions showing the scene with the bottles and the slippers and the feet at carpet-level before cutting back to Jordan's annoyed face sheet-side. When we pan back to a wide-shot for a repeat of exactly the same joke again, the pill bottles are nowhere to be seen - this being an entirely different take where they weren't knocked to the floor. That such a glaring omission of continuity made it to the final edit is atrocity enough, although to think that there were multiple takes of anything here is the larger mystery, frankly.

EXHIBIT B: There are a couple of moments in a restaurant with April and Little Jordan where the former is talking, then the camera angle switches to behind April and you can see from her jawline that she's not speaking, even though the dialogue track continues.

EXHIBIT C: Also in the restaurant scene, April is holding a glass of wine while speaking to Little Jordan. The camera cuts to behind her again and the glass is on the table. Then back to the facing-shot and it's still in her hand. A viewer should not be able to notice these things when watching for the first (only) time. Who edited this film, Stevie Wonder?*3


Ending on a self-congratulatory note which is completely unearned, the whole thing is far too long for a movie that has nothing new to say and can't even reheat the material of others with any coherence. Issa Rae and Marsai Martin try their absolute hardest to save this (and are certainly awarded enough screen-time to do so), but it's all for naught. Little is an absolute car crash of a film.

We definitely need more BAME voices in mainstream cinema. We need more female voices, too. What we don't need is more lazy, patronising, badly-assembled regurgitation - the white dudes have got that sewn up already, thanks…

So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
Well, it's a pretty solid companion-piece to What Men Want, not least because they share a co-writer in Tina Gordon.

Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?

Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
Just don't.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
I should bloody well hope not.

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
It appears that other people are more forgiving of this movie than I am, so that's a distinct possibility.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.

Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: Regina Hall and Issa Rae both appeared in The Hate U Give, along with Devon 'The Force Awakens Hangar Officer' Libran.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 To be fair, I was watching this at 10:30am, which is classic programming for kids' movies. Although a) this is a 12A certificate which sort of limits the number of young kids who would be there, and b) there were no kids in the room - the miniature humans having more sense than the rest of us, presumably. Oh, and c) 'the rest of us' consisted of seven people. [ BACK ]

*2 A lazy cinematic shorthand for a lazy film which probably wouldn't matter if the rest of it wasn't so appropriately awful. [ BACK ]

*3 A lazy joke on my part certainly, but one I feel the film very much deserves. Anyway, David Moritz edited this film. Presumably while looking in a different direction. [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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