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Be-'Little'.

In the conventional body-switch comedy "Little," plucky teen actress Marsai Martin (of TV's "black-ish" sitcom) establishes herself as a comic force of nature, or more accurately, supernature.

She plays Jordan Sanders, a bullied and belittled middle school student who grows up to become a bullying and belittling corporate CEO (Regina Hall) whose narcissism terrifies her cowering employees into submission.

One day during an acidic tirade, the adult Jordan becomes so abusive to a little girl that she angrily waves her pretend wizard's wand at Jordan and utters the words, "I wish you were little!"

The next morning, the CEO wakes up in Martin's 13-year-old body with a decidedly noncorporate coiffure.

This is where "Little" starts to go wonky by making no attempt to generate the level of internal logic necessary to ground the fantastic components of this well-used plot.

How does Jordan not notice she's suddenly much shorter, especially while waiting for coffee alongside adults?

How does she not notice her colorful wardrobe now hangs just a little bit loose?

What, she never once looks into a mirror before going to the office, unaware she's become a kid?

Granted, realism doesn't rate highly in the body-switch genre, where the supernatural catalyst for corporeal changes often remains shrouded in mystery. (How did that little girl's wand perform real magic? A mystery!)

Still, this screenplay (credited to director Tina Gordon and Tracy Oliver) makes the CEO look stupefyingly unaware, despite that the first scenes prove her to be the perfectionist polar opposite.

The CEO also appears to be more miffed than freaked out by her magical transformation.

She calls in her exhausted, overworked assistant April (Issa Rae).

After quickly accepting that her demanding boss has become a more demanding teen, April agrees to take over the Jordan Sanders office where a superrich startup jerk named Connor (Mikey Day, mustering skin-crawling cluelessness) demands an idea for a hot new app or he'll take his billions elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Jordan tries to avenge her terrible middle school experience with vicious mean girls who bully their classmates, among them her new, lovable outcast friends (J.D. McCrary, Tucker Meek and Thalia Tran).

Then, to create some awkwardly pervy comic vibes, adolescent Jordan's adult-sized libido becomes fixated on her attractively attentive teacher Mr. Marshall (Justin Hartley, moving in slow-motion cliches), and the CEO's smoldering starving artist paramour Trevor (Luke James).

"Little" resurrects the periodically popular body-switch genre that peaked during the 1980s. (Penny Marshall's 1988 hit "Big" tops the list, including 1987's not-good "Like Father, Like Son," 1988's not-bad "Vice-Versa" and George Burns' disappointing 1988 offering "18 Again.")

The genre is making a comeback with both "Shazam!" and "Little," which Martin proposed, and is now an executive producer on.

Martin impressively commands the screen, replicating Hall's combustible, tyrannical instability with scary accuracy.

Yet, she's stuck in a screechy, shrieky, intermittently amusing sitcom laden with cliches (two silly sing-a-longs, "be yourself" platitudes and obligatory exclamations of "awesome") and the sad observation that teens can become the abusive, selfish people they once hated.

Perhaps in "Little 2," Hall's Jordan could switch bodies with Oprah Winfrey.
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Title Annotation:TimeOut
Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Date:Apr 12, 2019
Words:516
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