Little successfully puts a funny new spin on age-changing comedy with a surprisingly heartfelt message about staying true to yourself when growing up.
Age-changing comedies are nothing new to Hollywood, with Big and 13 Going on 30 taking young preteens, aging them up to become adults and inevitably teaching them a lesson about not growing up too fast. In Universal Pictures’ latest comedy, Little, that particular formula is reversed, with an adult woman being turned back into her 13-year-old self – to hilarious effect. Little was directed by Tina Gordon (Peeples) from a script she co-wrote with Tracy Oliver (Girls Trip), who’s credited with the story of the movie. Little successfully puts a funny new spin on age-changing comedy with a surprisingly heartfelt message about staying true to yourself when growing up.
Little introduces 13-year-old Jordan Sanders (Marsai Martin), who’s bullied in middle school for her interest in science and as a result of one particular incident, learns the wrong lesson about how to deal with bullies: she becomes a bully herself. Cut to grown up Jordan (Regina Hall), who’s become a tech mogul in charge of her own company. She’s feared by all of her employees, including her overworked assistant April (Issa Rae). And when Jordan is mean to a young girl, that girl wishes Jordan was little – and the next morning Jordan wakes up as her younger self. With an important work pitch looming and Jordan desperate to return to her adult self, she turns to April for help in finding the little girl that cursed her. However, Jordan will have to learn some hard lessons – ones she didn’t learn the first time she was little – before she returns to her adult self.
In terms of putting a new spin on the age-changing comedy, Little does a good job of offering something new within such a specific brand of film. Even this particular reverse on the aging up of Big and 13 Going on 30 has been done before with 17 Again, but Little sets itself apart by focusing on the experiences of a black girl/woman, bringing some much needed representation to this branch of comedy. The movie mines its premise, along with the gender and race of its characters, for a great deal of comedy. Oliver’s script for Little, like that of Girls Trip, is unapologetically female-focused, diving into not only Jordan’s experiences as a girl and as a woman, but her dynamic with April. The result is an oddball story with well-developed characters that brings plenty of heart to a typically comedic age-changing story. Little doesn’t skimp on the comedy, but it doesn’t skimp on the heart either, balancing the lessons Jordan learns as her young self with the more wild moments of humor.
The star of Little is, undoubtedly, Martin, who’s made a name for herself in Hollywood as one of the leads in ABC’s sitcom Black-ish. Martin rather effortlessly pulls off the character of Jordan in Little, portraying an adult in a child’s body with a great deal of grace and humor. Thanks to her performance as the younger version of Hall’s character – and Hall is certainly solid in her own right as the wildly mean adult Jordan – Martin effectively sells the concept of Jordan being stuck in the body of her 13-year-old self. Meanwhile, Rae works as a great complement to Martin and Hall’s Jordan, portraying the more subdued and fearful April. The relationship between April and Jordan is the anchor for much of the more hard to believe aspects of Little, working to ground the movie’s fantastical premise and over-the-top comedy. The trio of actresses are a solid cast to lead the film and though there are memorable bit parts for the supporting players, Martin, Rae and Hall are what makes Little work as well as it does.
Still, though Little strives to rise above the typical studio comedy with its new spin on the age-changing premise, the movie plays it relatively safe. Making the main characters of Little a pair of black women certainly puts a fresh perspective on the premise of an adult becoming their younger self and learning certain life lessons, but the movie still follows a fairly predictable path to that conclusion. And there’s nothing wrong with predictable, especially in terms of Little, which is fun both because of and despite its predictability. Moviegoers looking for a solid comedy that helps them escape for a few hours will find just that in Little.
Ultimately, Little may not have reinvented the wheel of comedy but it’s perfect for fans of Oliver’s last film Girls Trip, or those who have followed Martin’s rise on Black-ish. Further, fans of Rae’s own HBO comedy Insecure will see her playing a similarly earnest and unsure character in Little. Anyone that was intrigued by the trailers for Little will find plenty to enjoy in the movie’s often uproarious comedy, which is effectively balanced by a touching story about growing up – one that reinforces a lesson both kids and adults likely need to learn. Little is a successful comedy and an entirely enjoyable experience at the theater that may get lost amid a month with so many big releases, but it provides some necessary counter-programming to the superhero blockbusters debuting in April.
Little is now playing in U.S. theaters nationwide. It is 109 minutes long and rated PG-13 for some suggestive content.
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