Today’s Prayer Focus

Little Man Tate

Reviewed by: Brett Willis

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Older Child to Adult
1 hr. 39 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
October 11, 1991
DVD: September 4, 2001
Cover Graphic from “Little Man Tate”
Featuring Jodie Foster (Dede Tate)
Harry Connick Jr. (Eddie)
Dianne Wiest (Jane Grierson)
Bob Balaban (Quizmaster)
Adam Hann-Byrd (Fred Tate)
David Hyde Pierce (Garth Emmerick)
See all »
Director Jodie Foster
Producer Orion Pictures Corporation, Peggy Rajski, Scott Rudin, Randy Stone
Distributor Orion Pictures Corporation

“It’s not what he knows. It’s what he understands.”

This dramatization of what it’s like to be a child prodigy is worthwhile, despite the profane language. Perhaps actress/director Jodie Foster was able to use her own background as a child film star to lend realism to the “I-don’t-fit-in-anywhere” theme.

Fred Tate (Adam Hann-Byrd) is a first-grader who does photo-quality painting, competition-level piano and extremely complicated math. He’s also unhappy because he’s not like other children and has no friends, and because he understands and worries about adult subjects like deforestation and ozone depletion. His single mom, Dede (Foster) is a likable person who loves her son fiercely, but isn’t sure what’s best for him. Dr. Jane Grierson (Dianne Wiest), the head of an institute for gifted children and a former prodigy herself, is sure that enrolling him at her institute is what’s best; but she still has some childhood skeletons in her own closet.

Like most films that could teach children to accept people who are “different,” this film is marred by profane content. Damon (P. J. Ochlan), a math prodigy at the institute, has a foul mouth and is mad at the whole world. Eddie (Harry Connick Jr.), a college kid who briefly befriends Fred when Fred takes a summer course in quantum physics, is shown in bed with his girlfriend (no visible nudity). Dede and her friend apply for jobs as dancers (possibly exotic), but the jobs fall through because the proprietor loses his liquor license. This and other references to adult themes would hopefully go over the heads of kids below a certain age. There are a couple of scenes of physical injury (nothing serious). Much of the film has a sad tone, but the ending is positive. Parents of kids under 10 should watch this one for themselves, and then decide if it’s appropriate for their children’s age level.

Viewer Comments
Positive—I showed Little Man Tate to my mom and dad and my dad really liked it, and my mom thought it was good too. There’s very few movies since the seventies within the secular realm that don’t have at least some mature content, like coarse language, and adult type themes, that aren’t solely aimed at young people like cartoon stuff.

I have had this movie for quite awhile and avoided watching it, because I thought I couldn’t handle the sentimentality. I usually watch classic films which usually have solid G-rated material, but are less applicable to the modern experience, and artsy international stuff, which go over the heads of my parents. So my dad said, “Do you have a normal movie I could watch?” So knowing that he likes stuff with a heart, I was pretty sure it would be an okay thing.

I was surprised how good it was, it’s overall clean, and knowing it’s a product of secularism, it’s not so bad.

I agree with the article on it in this site, for those under 10 or so should have their parents see it first to make sure that it’s okay. The message of the film doesn’t have an explicit biblical message, but why should an industry not based on the Bible do such things. It is a pity that Christian movies aren’t as easily available as the secular ones, but there are a lot worse than this.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3
Jeff Roth, age 33 (Canada)