Although it seems to have a lot of potential, Little, unfortunately, doesn’t utilize its solid comedic cast to the best of their abilities and instead relies on mindless humor and body-switching tropes.
The movie follows Jordan Sanders (Regina Hall), an Atlanta tech company owner who is definitely the Devil in designer clothes. She’s a genuinely awful human being who treats everyone like trash, particularly her hapless assistant, April (Issa Rae). We’re meant to believe she got this way because she was bullied mercilessly as young tween by middle-school girls. In fact, the opening scene sees Jordan as a 13-year-old (Marsai Martin), trying to give a science presentation onstage with a big balance ball on a string but getting knocked down by said ball after the resident mean girl throws it at her. Next, we see Jordan coming out of the hospital in almost a body cast and vowing when she was “big” she would do the bullying before it was done to her while her parents patiently listen. And this is supposed to be funny? Why isn’t that mean girl being sent to a juvenile detention center? Anyway…
True to her word, Jordan grows up to be the bully she longed to be, but when she pushes around a young girl in her building’s lobby, the tweener “casts” a spell on Jordan to be little again so she could kick the rude woman’s ass. Ah so. Waking up the next day, the adult Jordan indeed finds herself stuck in her 13-year-old self and thus goes the rest of the silliness. Jordan the younger and April, who is now her “auntie,” try and figure out how to get the adult body back, while Jordan is forced to go back to middle school and April takes over at the office in Jordan’s absence, finally asserting herself and letting her ideas be heard.
To reiterate, the comedy in this just seems beneath some of its star power. Rae does her very best to shine, but she has trouble rising above the mediocrity of the story. Her April isn’t necessarily just a cut-and-dried placemat for Jordan to walk all over, and as the “auntie,” Rae has some moments of comedic brilliance, like when she and Martin, as the younger Jordan, get into it in the middle school parking lot or the two of them do a little lip-sync act in a restaurant. The interactions between Rae and Martin are definitely some of the best parts of the movie.
As for the young actress (best known for the sitcom Black-ish), she does a great job tapping into a mean-spirited, grown-ass woman trapped inside a Little body — almost to a fault. There are a few times you feel genuinely uncomfortable, especially when the younger Jordan is coming onto her middle school teacher in a highly inappropriate way. Yuck. And unfortunately for Hall, she comes off the worst of the three, playing a role she’s done more than a few times before but this time with little imagination.
In fact, there is really no inventiveness at all in Little despite its pedigree, which includes director/co-writer Tina Gordon Chism (ATL, Drumline). It quickly falls into trite themes, like realizing it’s better to be yourself than to put up walls and it’s great to be supportive and nice to people, giving them their moment to shine. Seriously, Jordan goes from “you are all beneath me” to “let me be altruistic” in nanoseconds, so the character’s journey to redemption seems so forced. Little simply fails to deliver the goods.