Released: 11th April
Seen: 15th April
In comedy, there is a storyline you see pop up again and again that could be described as ‘The Body Swap Film’ where one person is thrown into the body of someone completely different in order to learn a valuable lesson about who they are as people. They can also suddenly wake up in a body that’s of a very different age to what they were previously. This has given us such films as 1976’s Freaky Friday, Big, 1995’s Freaky Friday, The Hot Chick, 2005’s Freaky Friday, 17 Again and 2018’s Freaky Friday (which was also a musical, why the hell have we allowed four remakes of Freaky Friday to exist in this timeline?). It’s a very simple and standard story to tell. The main character is a bad person, someone magically turns them into someone different, they have serious emotional growth, they turn back into the person they were before only now they’re nicer. It’s sweet, it’s simple, it’s a framework that usually allows actors a chance to show off their comedic skills and Little is no different than others like it, in that it relies heavily on the lead performers to get through because it’s sure not going to be relying on the script.
Little follows Jordan Sanders (Regina Hall), a leader in the world of technology who runs her company with an iron fist. She beats her workers, screams at her assistant and has banned carbs from the office. Her put upon assistant April (Issa Rae) tries to work around Jordan’s abusive behaviour and even keeps trying to pitch her an idea for a new app that might save the company. Jordan won’t hear it and continues on her warpath of general anger when she ends up upsetting a small child with a toy magic wand who wishes for Jordan to become little so she would know what it felt like to be bullied. The next morning, Jordan wakes up looking exactly like she did when she was a 13-year-old (Marsai Martin) and is not only forced with dealing with a world where people can easily push her over but must also relive the most horrendous evil known to mankind… a middle school in America, NOOOOOOO!
To call the story basic would be to understate things. This is exactly the plot of every one of these “I’m suddenly in a younger body” movies and there’s nothing wrong with using that formula again here. The problem with the structure of it is that every potential comedic plotline gets dropped before we can even get used to it. There are the starts of a potentially awkward and funny story where the 13-year-old Jordan goes to a new school and sees her teacher Greg Marshall (Justin Hartley) and develops a crush on him. There’s some genuine potential there for some good boundary-pushing comedy that could’ve actually gone somewhere and maybe it would have if Mr Marshall was on screen for longer than 5 minutes before mysteriously vanishing from the film. There is a constant thread that Child Services might come around, which is set up right at the start when Agent Bea (Rachel Dratch) comes by, insists that 13-year-old Jordan be put into a school or else April will be arrested… and then she never appears in the movie again. There is no tension there, no potential for being caught out in a lie and no real consequence. There’s a scene where 13-year-old Rachel and a few of the kids cut class which might’ve been a perfect time for Agent Bea to pop up again, but she doesn’t because the film forgot about her at some point. The actual problem of “There is a 30-something woman trapped in a child’s body” isn’t the main focus of either character, the main focus is… well, there isn’t one.
The story is split between Rachel and April almost perfectly, the end goal being for both of them to change in some monumental way with Rachel learning to let go of her problems in school and April gaining the confidence needed to pitch her killer app idea and these are fine goals, but neither of them really manifest into anything. The “I have to accept who I was in school” plotline is a bust, devolving into scenes of makeovers and dancing like a character in Fortnite with no actual real growth for Rachel, while April’s entire plotline basically doesn’t matter one bit until the absolute last second when suddenly everything is fine and it happened just off-screen. This isn’t even going into the missed opportunities where they have to deal with the ramifications of Rachel suddenly turning into a 13-year-old. At no point do they explain to anyone “This is actually the evil adult Rachel you knew before, so that’s why you might never see this child again who we have been claiming is Rachel’s daughter”. Seriously, an entire character’s storyline revolves around how he realises he has feelings for Rachel and wants to do right by her daughter in order to show that, but he’s never let in on the fact that there’s something going on so I can only assume that someone called the cops later on to report that a 13-year-old got kidnapped.
So there is a lot of problems with the story structure of this film and they are so numerous that I’ve left out a large amount of pretty big issues, including the musical number that comes right out of nowhere for no reason and is forgotten the second it finishes, but weirdly… the film is still entertaining. The benefit of this kind of film is that it relies heavily on the leads. There’s a reason you only remember 2 versions of Freaky Friday and not the 4 versions that actually exist (seriously, that film has the same number of remakes as A Star Is Born, it’s weird) and it’s because of the leads and in this film, the leads save it. Issa Rae is genuinely delightful and provides so many genuinely great subtle moments and is a perfect foil for Marsai Martin to bounce off on. Even though I have huge problems with this film, nothing I say can take away from how genuinely amazing Marsai is. Not only was this movie her idea, but she is also the executive producer of the film at 14 years old. This woman is going to own her own studio by the time she’s 16, mark my words when I say that she has something special that the world is not ready for. Not only does she produce this movie, but her performance is comedy gold. She is what this film uses to get through its serious problems and she is flawless, effortlessly creating a performance that is engaging and hilarious and a sheer delight. At 14 she executive produced a feature film that she stars in and completely owns… when I was 14 I had only just worked out which doors were pull and which doors were push, so I now feel even less accomplished as a human being than I did before now.
Little is flawed, extremely flawed. If you try and follow the story you’re going to have a lot of questions by the end and if you came expecting something great, it’s going to disappoint you. It is absolutely enjoyable though, carried through its muddled plot by brilliant comedic performances that pull out laughs even when you’re watching and going “Wait, he’s stripping for his girlfriend and he doesn’t notice the 13-year-old in the room?” There are worse ways you could spend time in a cinema, but this is definitely not in the must-see category.
WHAT DID YOU THINK OF LITTLE? ARE YOU AS EXCITED AS I AM TO SEE WHAT MARSAI MARTIN DOES IN THE FUTURE? LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS