Having been picked on in school, Jordan Sanders (Regina Hall) proves that smarts pay off as she grows up to be a tech mogul. But Jordan has also grown mean, acting like she’s above everyone, including her assistant April (Issa Rae), employees, boyfriend Trevor (Luke James) and strangers on the street. One day she picks on the wrong person, who makes a wish that she was little. The next day, Jordan is transformed into her 13-year-old self (Marsai Martin) and has to return to middle school.
With the body swap genre having had such hits as ‘Big’, ‘13 Going on 30’, ‘17 Again’ and ‘Freaky Friday’, you’d think ‘Little’ was onto a winning formula. Unfortunately, the film struggles to hold your interest and to be consistently funny – not ideal for a comedy. Aside from body swap films, another movie that comes to mind watching ‘Little’ is ‘The Devil Wears Prada’. But Jordan Sanders is no Miranda Priestly. She offers no quips, simply yelling and shrieking hysterically at her staff, sometimes manhandling them. She’s not funny, just unpleasant. Clearly sympathy wasn’t the objective, but humour isn’t the result.
‘Little’s funniest jokes are all in the trailer and though the movie picks up once Jordan becomes a teenager (or ‘tweenager’, more appropriately), it drags to get to that point. As the movie progresses, it is marked by too many lulls and too few laugh-out-loud moments. At one point, there’s a random musical sequence which doesn’t make any sense. Fans of inconsistencies and plot holes will find plenty here.
The star of the show is undoubtedly Marsai Martin, with her character’s adult counterpart in Regina Hall not being in the film much at all. Martin would be best-known for her role on ‘Black-ish’, and indeed ‘Little’ exists because Martin approached Kenya Barris, the creator of 'Black-ish', with the idea for the movie having seen ‘Big’. At 14, Martin is now the youngest person to ever hold the title of executive producer on a Hollywood production (that production being ‘Little’). But Martin’s talents expand to her acting. She is a breath of fresh air and bright spark in this otherwise dull film. She’s a natural comic and extremely charismatic; it’s the script that lets her down.
Issa Rae and ‘This is Us’ star Justin Hartley, who plays the teacher who both Rae and Martin’s characters crush on, have their moments. But overall, there’s not a whole lot going. ‘Little’ has your typical feel-good message of staying true to yourself, and there’s a nice cafeteria scene where Jordan discovers the ‘friend zone’ – a ‘safe space’ for victims of bullying where they can find allies in each other, at least (mind you, ‘Eighth Grade’ is a far better film at looking at the effects and forms of bullying, and how kids can overcome it). Generally, one struggles to remember much of what happened in the movie.