Issa Rae is the best part of ‘Little’

Film is pretty unfunny reversal of the movie ‘Big.’
Issa Rae and Marsai Martin in “Little.” Eli Joshua Ade/Universal Pictures

Issa Rae and Marsai Martin in “Little.” Eli Joshua Ade/Universal Pictures

In “Little,” an obnoxious Atlanta tech entrepreneur faces two dilemmas: She’s just been transformed back into her 13-year-old self, and she has to pitch a new product to her biggest client or lose all his business.

This inversion of 1988’s “Big” fails to make either quandary interesting, let alone amusing. The movie is so flimsy that people might wonder how it could possibly have been made.

It can’t have been the quality of the script, which is credited to Tracy Oliver and director Tina Gordon and hardly qualifies as a first draft. It must have been the premise and the casting, which makes “Girls Trip’s” Regina Hall the grown-up Jordan Sanders, and “Blackish’s” Marsai Martin the teenage version (a bigger role). The movie’s most valuable player, however, is “Insecure’s” Issa Rae. She plays Jordan’s much-abused assistant, who’s forced to pose as her boss’s aunt after a spell cast by a pipsqueak magician forces Jordan to relive her teenage torments.

That’s where the story begins, during Jordan’s first season in junior-high hell. The movie then jumps to the 38-year-old Jordan, who is rich, arrogant and friendless. Her top client (Mikey Day) gives her an ultimatum, just before a confrontation at a doughnut truck — Jordan is portrayed as joylessly anti-carb — causes a wand-wielding girl to do some voodoo.

Soon a child protective services agent (Rachel Dratch) arrives to insist that little Jordan go to school. She ends up, of course, at the same place she hated 25 years ago. While April tries to run the company, Jordan finds herself exiled to the nerds’ table in the cafeteria.

That’s barely enough material for 60-minute movie. “Little” lasts nearly twice that long, in part because it’s so sluggishly paced. Rather than develop the characters or the situation, the filmmakers pad the movie with hot guys and multiple scenes where the characters break into song and dance. Jordan’s sort-of-boyfriend (Luke James) begins a stripper routine every time he enters her apartment, and 13-year-old Jordan has a hunky new teacher (Justin Hartley). The movie attempts to draw embarrassed giggles by having Jordan do grown-up things while in her barely teenage body, including coming on to guys three times her age and warbling a Mary J. Blige song atop a restaurant bar while sloshed on wine.

Like most Hollywood movies that pretend to question the values of the filthy rich, “Little” implicitly endorses them. It glories in Jordan’s lavish apartment, expensive sports car and vast array of designer clothing. When the 13-year-old mogul decides to help the junior-high nerds, the first thing she does is outfit them from her closets full of fancy togs. Should any girl be forced to relive middle school, “Little” suggests, she should at least do so with a platinum card.



Grade: D

Starring Regina Hall, Issa Rae and Marsai Martin. Directed by Tina Gordon Chism.

Rated PG-13 for some suggestive material. Check listings for theaters. 1 hour, 48 minutes.

Bottom line: A thin storyline that's sluggishly paced

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