1988’s Big led by Tom Hanks is not only a muse to the latest DCEU flick Shazam!, but is also the inspiration for Will Packer Productions’ latest female empowerment comedy Little. As evidenced in the title, it quite literally flips the premise of a kid that wakes up an adult on its head. While it hits some of the same beats as the body-switching comedies Hollywood has churned out since being inspired by Big, Little has a contemporary story to tell and has an unapologetically good time telling it.
14-year-old Marsai Martin pitched the idea to the production company behind Girls Trip when she was 10 amidst her breakout role as Diane in ABC comedy Black-ish. She wanted to put a spin on one her mom’s favorite movies, making her the youngest executive producer ever. Little is fueled with this enlivened fresh spirit that brought it to life. It may be inspired by something we’ve seen before, but uses this familiarity to bring new voices to the table, that will certainly resonate with some audiences more deeply than Big’s simple “don’t grow up too fast” theme.
Little sets the stage with the introduction of Regina Hall’s over-the-top Jordan, a demanding and seriously mean tech company owner who pesters her assistant April, played by Insecure’s Issa Rae, with ridiculous requests in line with how The Devil Wears Prada’s Miranda Priestly would beckon to Anne Hathaway’s character, which Rae easily comically quips at to herself for the audience’s enjoyment. As Jordan approaches her employees at work, a similar dynamic is introduced. They are afraid of her and harassed by her authority.
Then comes the bit – Jordan picks on a young girl, who then wishes her to be “little” again (literally with a magic wand) so she could go up against her “big and rich” entitlement. The next day, Jordan wakes up as her middle schooler self (Marsai Martin) and justice is served sweetly when April discovers the new predicament her nightmarish boss has been faced with. The main predicament, of course, is she's stuck as kid right as a social worker conveniently shows up to force her to go back to school, where she first learned her closed-off, combative nature.
Little does a nice job of making middle school the awkward, confining environment it was for many of us, which young Jordan gets a chance to try to do all over again with her newfound maturity and "bad boss" persona whilst April gets a chance to assert herself in the office for the first time. Their character arcs seek to make an interesting and heartwarming point about how women often view power and success throughout our lives, for the ears of kids and adults alike.
It’s a comedy at its core, and Marsai Martin and Issa Rae make for a fun dynamic duo to watch throughout. Rae particularly shines with her brand of humor, which she’s never been able to use to lead her own movie (but we’ll be seeing a lot of in the near future). Martin asserts herself in a breakout role that commands her old-soul talent to the forefront in a way not often seen on screen. It’s a particularly fun watch for a girls night or between a mother and daughter, with quite a bit of crowd-pleasing moments to laugh with an audience.
As expected with this particular genre, it’s about what it’s marketed to be and if you’ve enjoyed the humor found in What Men Want, then Little, both co-written and directed by Tina Gordon, will either deliver or miss for you. It’s tough and near impossible for a body-switch comedy to surprise audiences at this point too, especially when there have been so many different entries.
However, I do particularly like the goal of Little to redefine the genre this type of movie usually sits in from a “rom-com” to a female-driven comedy that quite literally and cleverly explores "black girl magic," a social media movement created by CaShawn Thompson to celebrate the beauty, power and resilience of black women. Supporting a movie like this isn’t only important for Hollywood’s continued inclusion, but a welcome addition to the conversation – this time for younger voices too!
While you’ve already seen much of what Little has to offer thematically, many of the jokes will likely feel dated in a couple years as it seeks to be relevant in the age of social media and hot button female empowerment. Nevertheless, it’s a blast to watch both Issa Rae and Marsai Martin breakout on the big screen together with their funny dynamic as they deliver an enjoyable, yet formulaic comedy with an energizing message.
YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.