For kids, wishing they were grownups is a fantasy about finally being in charge of their own lives. Getting sent back to school age is a punishment, although In the father/son swap movies of the ’80s the middle aged men longed to return to their youth. Little has a lot to learn on both sides.
Jordan Sanders (Regina Hall) was bullied when she was a child (Marsai Martin), so she worked her butt off to become the boss so she’d be in charge. Now she runs a tech firm and terrorizes her employees and assistant April Williams (Issa Rae).
It takes an inordinately long time to show Jordan as a mean boss. Hall is relentless and it’s funny to see her shove a kid and pay to skip ahead in the coffee line, but this is a simple premise. Get to the plot already.
A child (Marley Taylor) wishes for Jordan to be little again and Jordan wakes up back to her 13-year-old self. Martin is great at playing the Jordan that Hall established, but Little doesn’t seem to know what to do with her.
Child Services forces Jordan to go back to school,where the mean kids are still mean. The same actor (Eva Carlton) plays the mean girl who bullied Jordan in 1993 and 2019. What’s that about? It could be something but it’s never addressed in the film.
Jordan makes moves on her hot teacher (Justin Hartley) and her adult boyfriend (Luke James) who assumes she’s Jasmine’s daughter. Jordan wants to drink and April has to remind her grown-ups don’t let 13-year-olds drink.
It’s funny when Jordan’s booty call shows up as scheduled and discovers a 13-year-old. Nothing ever pays off with these setups though. Jordan starts singing into a breadstick on a bar and April joins in. How is that the payoff to a little girl acting grown-up?
Perhaps Little was just trying to avoid the truly uncomfortable scenario of a 13-year-old trying to seduce grown men. But the comedy is in the uncomfortable situation. The adults behave, but if you can’t handle it maybe don’t make that joke.
Young Jordan teaches some of the real 13-year-old outcasts how to be cool. Her new friends say they’re in the friend zone because the cool kids don’t include them. I don’t think that’s what friend zone mans. I’m not saying I’ve ever been in this so-called friend zone, but I’ve heard.
In the ‘80s, Ronald Miller bought his popularity for $1000 but became someone far worse in the process. In 2019, popularity is Instagram followers. Do whatever they like and don’t ever be real to jeopardize your likes. At least, in one scene that’s the message. Then that’s over too.
There are so many plot threads in Little and none of them are consistent. There’s Jordan going back to school, there’s Jordan getting to actually know her boyfriend whom she’s kept at a distance, there’s the company, there’s April trying to pitch her own app.
Note to screenwriters: That’s too many things for a comedy. Give each of your lead characters one thing and focus on doing that one thing well. The more you crowd your comedy with plot, you take time away from potential jokes.
An app is also the new “personal video project you don’t want to sell out to networks” or “demo tape you’re afraid to send to a record label.” April’s app really isn’t a very good idea, but if it was they wouldn’t use it in a movie. They’d actually make the app.
A lot of name actors show up for one scene, never to be addressed again. Those aren’t really cameos so much as plot threads that don’t pay off. Hartley is a name from This Is Us. I guess his scene in the hall and in the classroom counts as two scenes.
Rachel Dratsch plays the Child Protective Services agent and never shows up again. Not that more scenes covering up the magical realism to a government agent is the best kind of comedy, but it would at least follow through on something.
At least the school parking lot security guard (Palmer Wiliams Jr.) could have been a recurring thing. What if he witnessed some shenanigans every time April dropped Jordan off at school? Comedy rule of threes, people!
I’ve got to stop writing better movies than the ones I watched. Let me focus back on what I actually saw.
A kid being bossy like the adult she became is cute. It’s a good message that Jordan never actually outgrew her childhood issues. Being meaner than the bullies is a very childish way of reacting. It’s not actual maturity. Jordan as a grown-up was just throwing tantrums.
Are there maybe any advantages of being little again? Jordan doesn’t discover any. At least she discovers something positive she shares with her young classmates, and there is a thread of women supporting each other when April helps her, and, spoiler, Jordan grows enough to support her back.
I expected a little more from Little. And really, just a little. A fish out of water is one of the seven plots that exist and it should write itself. I guess it can write itself but it can’t add jokes. For that, we need more clever screenwriters.
Little is in theaters Friday.