We all wish we could go back to being a kid sometimes. Adulting can be hard and there’s a part of us that can, on occasion, long for the days when the confidence of our childhood was still intact. Little, presented as a concept by black-ish’s Marsai Martin at just 10-years-old, has a great message, but lacks the sincerity and heart within its narrative delivery.
Directed by Tina Gordon and co-written by Gordon and Tracy Oliver, Little follows the story of Jordan Sanders (Regina Hall), a CEO whose tech company has made her a successful business mogul in Atlanta. Success aside, she is also a really big bully. Jordan rages at her employees, is constantly disappointed in her personal assistant, April (Issa Rae), and constantly exhibits obnoxious and rude behavior. Basically, no one wants to be around her and her staff scurries out of her way as soon as Jordan walks through the doors.
Of course, she hasn’t always been this way. Before being a successful businesswoman, Jordan was a confident middle school girl (the little version of Jordan is played by Marsai Martin) who wanted to blow her classmates away at her school’s talent show with her science project. Suffice to say that it didn’t turn out too well after a school bully ruined everything, embarrassed her, and broke her arm following the incident. In order to protect herself from bullies, Jordan essentially turned into one herself, distancing herself from others and putting her guard up so that no one could ever hurt her the way they did in middle school. Jordan has to learn a few lessons, though, after a young girl sees how mean she is and wishes that Jordan were little, turning her into her 13-year-old self.
The film makes some great points and its message, about childhood and losing the confidence of being who you are because society has knocked it out of you, is universal, but there’s something missing. Little has a few great moments between young Jordan and Issa Rae’s April, especially since they’re caught in a lot of awkward situations. Regina Hall, in particular, is a standout despite her much smaller role. However, what the film largely lacks is sincerity. As a comedy, the laughs are largely hit or miss and more often than not, the timing is off.
At one point, Jordan’s neighbor calls Child Protective Services (who somehow arrive within a few hours of the call) and April is forced to enroll young Jordan in middle school–the place she hates the most. While there, Jordan, though she obviously thinks she’s above everyone there, still winds up sitting with the outcast kids at lunch. There are a couple of uncomfortable scenes where young Jordan, still in denial that she’s 13 and not 38, hits on her teacher (Justin Hartley). Meant to be funny, the scenes come off a bit creepy instead.
The film’s themes are fantastic though, bringing to the forefront how we, as adults, are the product of our childhood experiences and how we absolutely knew ourselves back then, even though we might have forgotten. Little is also very adamant that women can grow up to be smart, confident, and heads of their own companies without bullying others. The film truly shines in the moments when Jordan and April are helping and supporting each other. Still, Jordan’s realizations come at the expense of organically crafted and heartwarming moments. Though the attempt is made, the heartfelt scenes are few and far between, sprinkled throughout the film because they have to be to get to Jordan’s epiphany. There also isn’t that one moment that brings the movie together.
Little is ultimately just an okay film. The cast is fantastic, but the story is neither extremely funny or truly sincere. It struggles a bit in juggling both Jordan and April’s stories, but the film has its better moments when the two are working together. Comedies are generally very hard to execute, but Little at least makes a valiant attempt.