As 1998’s Big once saw a child morph into Tom Hanks overnight after wishing to become an adult, Tina Gordon’s Little offers the reverse scenario. Regina Hall plays Jordan Sanders, who was bullied as a science-loving child but now is the bossy CEO of her own app development company JSI. She’s a tyrant who belittles employees in meetings, pushes children out of her way, and after harassing a young girl who just wants to show Jordan a magic trick, finds herself at the receiving end of a curse that turns Jordan, well, “little” (and now played by Marsai Martin). Jordan wakes up the following morning to find herself half her normal size and forced to go back to school instead of managing JSI on the eve of a massively important pitch session. That’s when assistant April Williams (Issa Rae) has to step up and take control for now adolescent Jordan.
Little releases this weekend with early showings starting this Thursday, April 12th, and looks to make its comedic mark opening against the demonic darkness of Hellboy and family goofs of Missing Link. Here are three reasons why you should check out this body-swap comedy!
1. Young Actor-Producer Marsai Martin Steals The Show
Marsai Martin is only fourteen years old but has already successfully pitched to Will Packer (Girls Trip/Night School), founded Genius Productions, and secured a first-look deal with Universal. The actress/creator is undoubtedly on her way to a lifetime of ambitious development, which is made clear throughout Little. Her presence is not that of “child actor” preconceptions. Martin – who’s no stranger to comedy given her background on Black-ish – mirrors the maturity and witticisms of co-star Issa Rae with remarkable ease. She may be “little” in stature but commands the screen with her own gravitational pull – sometimes even overshadowing Rae and other adult co-stars.
The allure and entertainment factor of Martin’s role is that she’s playing a grown-up trapped inside a pre-pubescent body. Jokes range from Lil’ Jordan trying to sneak glasses of rosé to driving a souped-up sports car despite barely reaching the pedals. Martin succeeds in transplanting Regina Hall’s personality into a pint-sized vessel, strutting through public school halls with the fashionista swagger of a New York City millionaire while still retaining childhood innocence. What it’s like to remember a time when our personalities were free, not beaten into form by society’s rigid structures. Whether Jordan’s confronting bullying (for the second time) or performing Fortnite dances with newfound friends during a talent show, Martin is a multi-dimensional talent. Impromptu restaurant duets alongside Rae and very inappropriate flirting with teacher Mr. Marshall (Justin Hartley) most definitely included.
2. A Comedy With Purpose
By flipping the Big narrative and having an adult shrink down instead of child sprout up, Tina Gordon and writer Tracy Oliver can revisit playground bullying from a reversed perspective. Early on in the film, as we meet Jordan during her actual childhood, her response to parental encouragement in the form of “none of this will matter when you’re older” is a simple, vindictive, “because I’ll bully them first.” We then fast-forward to older, entrepreneurial Jordan, who treats others the way she was treated – and where Martin’s message of paying it forward takes hold. An eye for an eye and all that – breeding more hatred isn’t the answer. We get to see both sides of the coin, and evolution in wrongdoing, instead of just one generational standpoint.
Don’t get me mixed: Little is a comedy at its core and does bring the giggles – but there’s still a heart beating inside. Mini Jordan befriends the lunchroom “outcasts” given her re-entry into the bottom rung of schoolyard social acceptance and tries to improve their status. Fancy clothes, flashy jewelry, social media fakeness – reprogramming one’s self to be accepted – but individuality eventually prevails. Likewise, April starts running JSI without all the rants and insults Jordan once spewed at everyone and morale improves. All this from a pitch cooked up by Marsai Martin, don’t forget. That’s where Little gets its honesty from, promoting positive values to combat everyone who’ll do anything to stop you from being yourself.
3. Issa Rae Is Us All
We’ve all had that job or that boss – it’s inevitable. Actress Issa Rae balls all those frustrations and beatdowns into a workhorse character who craves the simple pleasures in life – carbs in the form of bagels or donuts, mostly – while slowly snatching back what’s rightfully owed to her. Then the plotted switch happens with Jordan and tides begin to turn once the abused employee gets to throw shade in the form of jokes like calling Jordan “Chucky” (when still not believing her story of shrinking) or demanding to be referred to as “Miss.” Rae plays the undervalued, unsupported, and rolled over assistant while doubling as a babysitter who must dodge obstacles from child services to JSI’s top client who’s on the verge of walking (“bad boy” Connor, played by Mikey Day).
Rae does not require Regina Hall or Marsai Martin to flank her comedic efforts as a crutch. Interactions with developer crush Preston (Tone Bell), Mr. Marshall, and Jordan’s booty call Trevor (Luke James) accentuate awkward romanticism with thirsty lines impeccably delivered under her breath. Callbacks to gettin’ “whooped” by your mama for misbehaving make a memorable rumble between April and transformed Jordan before class. Rae’s constant energy in Little is a combination of disbelief, frustration, and enjoyment at the sight of someone so deserving get their just desserts. She’s got the zingers, indulges in confusion, and showcases her talents. If you’re already sold on Little, you’re in good hands.
Little is in theaters this weekend. Get your tickets here.