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Reel Talk: ‘Little’

April 13, 2019

Tom Hanks’ legendary film “Big” is reinvented in reverse, with “Little” starring Regina Hall, Issa Rae and Marsai Martin. Co-written by Tracy Oliver and Tina Gordon, Gordon also directs this sweet and funny movie with a lesson for all.

Little Jordan Sanders (Martin) is an awkward yet precocious little girl, bullied in school and awaiting the years to pass until she is an adult, flipping the tables on those who bullied her.

Fast forward 30 years and Jordan is a tech savvy leader with a multimillion dollar company. Think Google here, lead by a dictator who cuts her eager employees deeply with the swift slice of her wicked tongue.

Lashing out left and right, everyone scatters to avoid the wrath of Jordan, but she messes with the wrong little girl who casts a spell, and Jordan becomes her 12-year-old self once again.

She must now rely on the adult she constantly belittles, her assistant April (Rae), to help run her company and find a solution to her “little” problem, all while Jordan navigates the halls of hell, aka middle school.

The entire weight of the film falls on the slender shoulders of Martin. She must make the audience believe the adult version of Jordan is within her — an arduous task to say the least — and she nails it.

Not for a moment did I think I was watching a pre-teen as Martin used every acting tactic to convey she was a 38-year-old woman stuck in a kid’s body. She’s funny at the expense of her own young self, perfectly timing her lines and reactions, and she conveys that sense of wisdom as she interacts with her outcast school chums. Martin is the lead in this film and proves she has a very bright future ahead of her indeed.

The real fun starts when Little Jordan walks back into her old school, and she is introduced to her teacher, who she finds attractive for obvious reasons. The interactions are awkward and hilarious, yet never inappropriate — a feat that is certainly difficult to pull off.

Most of us would never go back to this time in our lives for so many different reasons, and Jordan finds times haven’t really changed. She’s bullied again, but this time she has the wisdom to understand and react accordingly.

As she befriends a group of misfits and guides them, she grows as a person and begins to truly understand herself. It’s a sweet and charming awakening as Jordan learns and grows. It’s also heartbreaking to see these groups of kids, one feeling superior to the other, interact with emotional consequences. It’s a familiar storyline we all can relate to no matter our age.

While Hall takes a back seat to her little leading lady, it’s obvious she loves playing this wicked witch of the world of technology. She’s portrays a strong character, physically and mentally, who has learned how to navigate this cut-throat world, working with the likes of Connor (Mikey Day), whose sob story is one for the books.

Hall and Rae create a comedic duo that is as comfortable as it is funny, one playing off the other to give us two women we care about as they make us laugh. The two are like a yin-yang; Hall’s character bold and Rae’s character shy with her parenthetical comments which make us laugh at Jordan’s expense.

And lying closely beneath the surface of this situational humor are the messages that any 10- to 15-year-old can use. It’s a feel-good movie that reminds us of the importance of connecting and caring for one another.

Visually, this is a vibrant film, matching the boldness of the characters and their personalities. The gorgeous set designs are punctuated by vivid costuming, making you want to mix pink and red or stripes and polka dots in your next outfit.

After a season of muted grays and everyone wearing black all winter long, it’s great to have a splash of color, which just adds a dash of fun to this comedic film.

For moms and dads who want to bring their kids, please note the film is PG-13 for sexual innuendos, but by today’s standards, it’s quite benign.

3 stars

A version of this story appeared in the Friday digital edition of the Daily Journal.