Little tries too hard in trying to please its audience but the film’s premise is one that has been so much in that it’s become a cliche.
Imagine having to give a large presentation at work but wake up the morning before in your 13-year-old body. This is what happens for tech mogul Jordan Sanders (Regina Hall) when she discovers her younger self (Marsai Martin) looking back in the mirror. The only person who is enjoying every minute of this is Jordan’s assistant, April Williams (Issa Rae). The charade can only continue for so long. Hiding it from everyone at the office isn’t easy. Jordan is the type of boss who you run away from the moment that she steps foot in the door. Not unlike Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada. Meanwhile, Connor (Mikey Day) needs that next big app discovery or he’s leaving.
One of the problems that I have with the film comes during a scene in the elevator bay. Jordan Sanders isn’t the nicest person in the world. This doesn’t get her the right to get to decide what someone’s gender is. Her neighbor has a daughter and says as much. Jordan seems to imply that said neighbor has a son who is transitioning. This didn’t sit well with me at all. I couldn’t up but groan from my seat in theater. While I certainly laughed at other moments, these lines alone just brought the film downhill at a quick pace.
I get making this 38-year-old version of Jordan a bully because of her childhood but screenwriters Tracy Oliver and Tina Gordon didn’t need to have transphobic jokes at the expense of the transgender community. Not at a time when the presidential administration is preventing us from serving in the military. Not at a time when we’re being marginalized in general. These are hack jokes and that’s all they are. No more, no less. I would have certainly expected better than jokes that attack one of the core parts of my identity. It’s very easy to kill a mood and trust me, I’ve been there before.
The other thing about the film is that the premise has honestly been overdone. This isn’t quite the same thing as Big. The Tom Hanks-starring film sees the lead character make the wish to be big. Similarly, we see the lead character in 13 Going On 30 wishing to be 30 years old. The case here is quite the opposite from either of these two films. Because Jordan picked on her, Stevie (Marley Taylor) decides to make a wish that Jordan be little. Sure enough, Jordan wakes up the next day as her 13 year old self. She is not having any of it and this certainly shows upon learning that she’s forced to return to Windsor Middle School. If Jordan doesn’t grow emotionally, she’s not going to go back to her former self anytime soon.
Little aims high but falls well short of its potential.
DIRECTOR: Tina Gordon
SCREENWRITERS: Tracy Oliver and Tina Gordon
CAST: Regina Hall, Issa Rare, Tone Bell, Mikey Day, and introducing Marsai Martin