Little (2019)

“It needs to be big. It needs to make noise.”

Much to my dismay, Little is a mostly mean movie which, for far too long before the story does a complete 180 turn towards the end, seems to promote and even incentivize bullying. The film screams and kicks and shouts like a terrible two toddler, and it falls into the trap that ensnares so many modern, lazy American comedies. It’s okay for comedic scripts to be nasty when the one-liners and the jokes come from an inspired place of intelligence. Little doesn’t do this, and for the most part relies on the kind of rash, self-reflective judgments schoolyard bullies often project onto the lowly outcasts on playground. This is not my idea of fun, nor my idea of funny.

It’s easier to empathize with what she went through as a child than it is to actually like who Jordan Sanders (Regina Hall) has become as an adult. She was picked on, pushed around, tormented at school. Now she’s a grown woman, prominent tech mogul, and the office space is where she hunts and preys on her less powerful subordinates. We wonder how and why her loyal assistant April Williams (Issa Rae) puts up with all of the nonsense, at least until we learn April longs to climb the corporate ladder that Jordan stubbornly refuses to extend. Karma’s coming for Jordan though. She’s about to be – metaphorically and psychically – cut down to size.

The “how” of what happens in Little matters just as much as – which is to say…very little – the “why” of it all. Jordan’s cursed by a youngster, wakes up in her pre-teen body, and has to learn how to swim with the sharks in the body of a guppy. Marsai Martin plays Jordan in these gender-swapped Big portions of the film, and she exudes remarkable confidence in regards to her own skill. I’d like to see what she can do in a smarter comedy or a more dramatic role because she certainly knows how to leave a lasting impression. Having said that, outside of Martin’s few funny outbursts and Issa Rae’s expressive physical performance, Little beats with about as much blood-flow as the Grinch’s 2 sizes too small heart, and the latter portion of the film wants to be charming even though the story has already succumbed to cardiac arrest. You can’t revive or shock the life back into an empty cadaver.

Little will make plenty of people laugh, and that’s fine. If this one sparks a Marie Kondo sense of personal joy for you then you should hold onto it. My only hope with a review like this one is to prod and inquire as to why audiences feel no pause – or maybe don’t even desire to separate – what it means to laugh at someone and what it means to laugh with someone. Little might not be a cruel or outright crude movie (although the bizarre and taboo sexual tension comes across as grossly unnecessary), but it does point fingers, and it has the kind of mindset you’d find in a person who immediately laughs at somebody falling down the stairs rather than one who howls only after the individual gets up in a fit of laughter. I don’t mind when movies are mean spirited; they just need to be way more clever than the cynical Little, a film with nothing honest to say and one that’s all too willing to undo earnest bits for cheap, chewy, gristly gags.

“This doesn’t make any sense.”

Rating: 1.5 out of 5

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