[su_dropcap size=”5″]B[/su_dropcap]land movies like Little make my mind wander to weird places. Midway through this story’s unending second act, I started thinking about the infamous Doomsday Clock, where scientists move a minute hand to signify how far away we are from self-inflicted armageddon. If Hollywood had one of those things, we’d have to be inching close to Threat Level Midnight: All the recent reboots, remakes, prequels, sequels, ripoffs, retcons, and mashups are an ominous sign. “Foreboding” is a word I don’t use often enough. I’d say when Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson do a movie where they swap bodies for a day, we’ve officially hit the End Times. Based on what I’ve seen here, you might want to stock up on Yoo-hoo and head on down to the bunker.
Anyway, Little reheats a few ideas from Big and Freaky Friday, and the filmmakers desperately hope you won’t notice these plot points are a little bit older and a little bit colder. The movie starts in the early 90s, where a young, gangly Jordan Sanders (Marsai Martin) gets mocked and humiliated at a school talent show. Her parents reassure Jordan that–I’m paraphrasing–with the brains she has, she’ll be the boss of the bullies someday. And when you sign the paychecks, you can be all the bitch you want. Flashforward to the now, where Jordan (Regina Hall) has allowed that message to seep into her soot-black heart, and basically become the most vile individual on this planet. She runs a tech company with an almost reckless ruthlessness, stomping through her office and raining lava onto any pour soul who falls in the path of her Vesuvius eruptions. April, Jordan’s long-suffering assistant (Issa Rae), struggles to keep up with the constant deluge of diva demands. Things come to a head when Jordan chews out a little girl for violating the antiseptic sanctity of her office by performing magic tricks. Nonplussed, the girl whips out her wand and hexes Jordan to revert back to her geeky 13-year-old self. The next morning rolls around, and wouldn’t ya know it…
“Nonplussed” is another word I’m happy to bust outta the vault. Try and use it in a sentence and not feel proud of yourself. I dare you. So yeah, if all this schtick seems familiar, that’s ’cause it is. Just as What Men Want did the ol’ fliperoo with Mel Gibson’s chauvinistic What Women Want, this movie has the temerity to tinker with the magic of Tom Hanks’ star-making vehicle, Big. Where that classic film was patient, intelligent, and insightful, Little feels diluted and boring. The filmmakers commit further sin by making Hall’s character so outrageously unlikable in the beginning that they render her difficult to root for in later scenes. I know they’re trying to endow Jordan with a Devil Wears Prada-vibe, but seeing her push her employees out of chairs and make withering comments about their weight would make Bobby Knight blush. For a “comedy,” the first 30 minutes of Little is some rough sledding.
That’s not to fault the actors. Hall plays her ice queen a little too well. This makes her inevitable conversion to cute-cuddly status that much harder to buy. Rae does a fine job as the flummoxed Everywoman who does everything but never gets her due. The real standout is Martin, who brings fragile sass to young Jordan. She has an effortless charm, and her performance is the best thing in the film.
Little has gags that aren’t terribly funny, characters that aren’t relatable, in a script that seems Xeroxed from better movies. Maybe Hollywood could adopt a Geneva Convention-type treaty. At the top of the list: No more body-swap movies for at least 30 years. Just for safety’s sake, if nothing else. I told ya, this is how it starts. Pretty soon, you’re watching a movie where The Rock is a pro fullback and Kevin Hart is a con man and they make a wish to switch places. The seas will boil, the moon will turn black as sackcloth, and then we’re all screwed.