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‘Little’ has a good concept, but the film’s a dud

1.5 stars (out of four)

This is actually the brainchild of a 14-year-old Marsai Martin. She thought up the concept and it’s a good concept. Growing up her mother’s favorite movie was Big and she was always interested in what if they did that in reverse. Because people had been saying to her apparently since she was a tiny little girl that she was really like an adult in this little girl’s body.

She’s the very popular star by the way of Blackish (as one of the twins, Diane). Here she plays a little girl her own age who is picked on in school and having a miserable time. And you flash forward and that little girl has become the very glamorous and imperious Regina Hall.

She’s a really nasty boss who has learned from the abuse she received as a child and a teenager to be very tough and unforgiving and not to have meaningful relationships with anybody. She is then condemned by a doughnut girl — don’t ask — into becoming a 13-year-old again.

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So all a good concept. The cast is very talented and they’re talented people involved up and down the movie. Regina Hall is a a fine actress and genuine movie star. She was critically acclaimed for the lead role in Support the Girls and Marsai Martin is genuinely a rising star. She’s maybe a little bit too pleased with herself, but she’s supposed to be playing that character.

The caveat is that with a good concept and talented people and a director like Tina Gordon Chism, the film’s a dud. I mean it’s it’s extremely difficult to stay awake. It’s just padded and feels formulaic and none of it really works.

One of the problems is that the main character is never a character, it’s a caricature. The whole point being — and this was I think one of the points of Big — is that you learn to cherish childhood more, to appreciate childhood more.

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One would think that that would also happen here, that all of a sudden  — spoiler alert — she returns to being an adult (everyone knows she’s going to), and then there would be some new knowledge gained. But it’s truly unclear what it is she needs to do to get out of being a child or how she manages that.

I guess people can watch it and it’s pleasant enough. The main reason to hesitate about the film is that while you can say these are likable and talented people, none of the humor works. There’s no comedy to deliver even a few guffaws.

All you can say is that — you’ll pardon the expression — it’s a big achievement for a 14-year-old to get anything on screen. But honestly it feels like a sketch that goes on much too long, and I think is going to be disappointing to people.

I’m sure we’re going to see better work from Regina Hall and Marsai Martin and also from the director Tina Gordon Chism in years ahead.

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