Little

This movie has two great things going for it. The talented creator of the HBO show Insecure — Issa Rae — is a blast to watch, as the long suffering personal assistant to a horrible CEO, Jordan (Regina Hall). With her facial expressions and quips, she steals the film.

The other great thing is the 14-year-old Marsai Martin (Black-ish). She came up with the idea for this movie a few years ago, and is the executive producer. That makes her the youngest executive producer in the history of Hollywood. She’s also good in her role, but the problem is…it feels like a 14-year-old also wrote the script. There are so few jokes that work.

Martin wanted to do this after watching Big (Tom Hanks), with the idea of flipping the genders, using an African-American cast, and the ages reversed. Instead of a little girl that’s bullied in school wanting to be “big”…this is a little girl bullied in school, and as she tells her parents who try to comfort her by saying how intelligent she is and that she can someday be a boss: “So I can bully other people first.”

And that she does, until she messes with the wrong person. The guy with the donut truck always parked outside her business, brings his daughter to work. She’s a wannabe magician, and she casts a spell on the meanie to make her “little.” She wakes up the next day with crazy hair, huge glasses, and…the body she had in middle school.

One of the big problems the movie has is that the boss is so nasty and over-the-top with her crazy behavior that…she wouldn’t have lasted one day without being sued or in jail. She pushes kids, licks other people’s food, cuts in line, curses at anyone in her path. It’s much more fun when you have an evil boss that has more subtlety, or at least seems grounded in reality (I’m thinking of characters played by people like Stanley Tucci, Kevin Spacey, and Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada).

And just as they go over the top with the boss’s behavior, the film drops the ball in other ways, too. For example, when the woman is turned into a child again, and has to go to school — we meet her hunky teacher (Justin Hartley from This is Us). There are two scenes where she flirts with him that are hysterical. The facial expressions Martin has, and her comedic timing, are perfect. Yet later when she runs into her booty call while she’s still a young teen (singer Luke James), that scene could’ve been touching. Instead, it was poorly written and turned kind of creepy.

The script was written by Tracy Oliver (who wrote the highly overrated Girls Trip), and directed by Tina Gordon (Peeples). It’s strange that all through the movie, I kept wondering why I wasn’t laughing at the scenarios more. A valet that doesn’t want to let a 13-year-old take a car for fear of losing his job….just isn’t enough. The message about bullying being bad…just isn’t enough. The premise of an assistant that has a great idea that the boss doesn’t want to hear…isn’t enough.

So what do you think will happen when the top client (Mikey Day of Saturday Night Live) is going to leave the company behind, if they don’t come up with a new product in 48 hours? Well, with Jordan now being a 13-year-old girl, it’s up to her assistant to save the day.

It’s odd that we don’t see the assistant shine more, now that she’s in charge. Also strange that, after we see some cute flirting with a co-worker (Tone Bell), nothing ever becomes of that; or with her being the one that gets the hunky teacher. I envisioned a scene at the end where Jordan is back to being an adult, runs into him and flirtatiously says, “Hi teacher” (he would look confused, as he only knew her briefly as a child). Then we see her assistant getting out of his car, straightening her blouse.

There are a handful of fun scenes. It’s neat to see Jordan and her assistant Googling what could possibly have caused her to turn 13 again (“Google ‘Benjamin Buttons’ disease” and “I didn’t know Gary Coleman was dead” are funny lines).

Former SNL cast member Rachel Dratch (Debbie Downer) is a lot of fun as a social services worker investigating this girl in one scene.

The many segments of Jordan back at school just don’t work. You don’t care about the same tropes you’ve seen many times involving bullies and cheerleaders. I was also a bit confused as to why they had the nerdy kids sit in the “friend zone” (that meant something completely different when I was back in school).

At the end of the day, you just don’t buy the change Jordan makes and quite frankly, you just don’t care. There’s no rooting interest in any of it.

Of all the body swapping movies that come to mind — 13 Going on 30, 18 Again, Hot Tub Time Machine, Like Father Like Son, Chances Are, Freaky Friday, heck, two even came out the same year (Big and Vice Versa in 1988), this is easily the worst. No one is saying it has to be as good as Big, which got a nomination for best screenplay and Hanks for best actor (and the late Penny Marshall was robbed of an Oscar for directing); but it should be better than it is.

If you think Tyler Perry movies are entertaining, this is the vehicle for you. Everyone else should probably avoid it.

1 ½ stars out of 5.

 

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