A big Little star is born
Little (PG, 109 mins) Directed by Tina Gordon Reviewed by
f you think your boss is bad, meet Jordan Sanders (Regina King).
While those outside her innovation company know her as Atlanta’s tech empress, her employees have less-kind descriptions of her.
Prone to put-downs, psychological pressure and petulance, Sanders rules by fear. But while the valet gets plenty of vitriol and the baristas are regularly berated, it’s her longsuffering assistant April (Issa Rae) who faces the full force of her unreasonable demands.
For three years, she’s put up with the 24/7 phone calls and disparaging remarks, in the hope of gaining a promotion – without barely a hint of that coming to fruition.
But when the company’s biggest client threatens to leave unless he hears some ‘‘fresh voices’’, April suddenly becomes a central figure. That’s because Sanders’ latest revelation of her nasty streak is met with an unusual response from the doughnut guy’s daughter. Unleashing some ‘‘black girl magic’’, overnight the tween transforms Sanders back into the thing she loathes the most – her 13-year-old self.
As that premise and the title suggests, yes, this is very much inspired by Tom Hanks’ 1988 fantasy Big. However, the twist here is that, rather than having Jerry Maguire star King act like a kid, we have Black-ish’s Marsai Martin (at 14, Hollywood’s youngest ever executive producer on a major movie) in full precocious mode (or as April puts it, she has ‘‘female Gary Coleman disease’’).
That means that rather than an ‘‘urban’’ version of 13 Going On 30,
director and co-writer Tina Gordon’s (joined here by Girls’ Trip scribe Tracy Oliver) comedy feels closer to 1999 high school romcom Never Been Kissed or Dwayne Johnson caper Central Intelligence.
Frankly, that’s not only a relief, but actually becomes a real hoot. After a tortuous start, Little blossoms into life thanks to the unlikely pairing of Martin (rocking a look that can only be described as a more fashionable, more feminine Steve Urkel and Insecure’s Rae. The duo (and Martin’s magnificent ’fro) deliver two terrific performances and transform this into a fabulous female buddy comedy, even managing to subvert the inevitable musical number and makeover scene.
It’s true that it all eventually follows the genre’s tropes, the ‘‘adult’’ jokes and themes that pepper the story make it hard to know what age it’s suitable for, and the anti-bullying message is a little heavy handed, but it’s hard not to leave the cinema without a smile on your face and the knowledge that you might have just seen the birth of a new Hollywood star.
Marsai Martin captivates in Little.