Body swap comedies are nothing new, but they have a decent enough track record when it comes to delivering fun. After all, who doesn’t have fond memories of Tom Hanks in Big? Or Jamie Lee Curtis rockin’ it in Freaky Friday? Fast forward to this year and we’ve already had a blast with one title from this sub-genre: OK, admittedly Shazam is essentially a super hero movie, but it’s a body swap too. And this week it’s the turn of a reverse version of Big. It’s called Little. No kidding.
The tables are turned even further. This is a female driven comedy with a predominantly black cast, all about successful businesswoman Jordan (Regina Hall). Bullied at school, she’s risen to the top in the world of IT and is a nightmare, constantly giving her staff a hard time, especially her long-suffering assistant April (Issa Rae). After one of her customary rants, Jordan is on the receiving end of a magic spell, one that kicks in the following morning when she wakes up to find her body has reverted to that of her 13 year old self (Marsai Martin). Yet inside, she’s still her 30+ pain in the proverbial. While April tries to have the spell removed – and, at the same time, gets the chance to prove herself – Jordan has the opportunity to see the world from the child’s point of view and learn some understanding. After all, they want to live their best life.
And that’s what the film is all about – and you shouldn’t let anybody stand in your way, even if some people will inevitably try. Not that we don’t know that anyway. A simplistic message, but it’s worth noting that the original idea came from Martin herself when she was just 10 years of age. That, in itself, is impressive. And, even though the adults have clearly had their fingers in the pie, the film retains a childlike simplicity, which comes with built in pluses and minuses. There are plenty of other messages in there, none of them treated in depth and all feeling very familiar, so there’s little or nothing new to learn. In fact, there are times when it feels borderline stale.
That’s the downside. The upside comes in the form of Hall, Rae and Martin, who work together beautifully. Hall is the master of the savage put down – woe betide anybody who gets in her way – needing just one sentence to cut somebody down to size. It may be something of a one note performance, but she delivers with gusto. As her assistant, Rae has more complexity to play with, as well as a few good lines of her own, and Martin has moments of real star quality as the younger Jordan, especially when the older woman inside her takes a fancy to her teacher at school.
It’s patchy, there are times when it sags in the middle under the weight of too much sugar, but Little is at its best when it sticks to being a straightforward body swap comedy – funny, pacy and just a wee bit political, which is no bad thing. It’s not the greatest comedy we’ll see this year, nor is it the worst, but it does deliver more laughs that you might expect and is carried along on the tidal wave of energy that is Hall, Rae and Martin. It would be nothing without them.
Freda Cooper | ★★ 1/2
Comedy | Cert: 12A | UK, 12 April (2019) | Universal Pictures | Dir. Tina Gordon | Regina Hall, Issa Rae, Marsai Martin and Justin Hartley.