Little Man Tate
Reviewed by: Brett Willis
Older Child to Adult
1 hr. 39 min.
Year of Release:
October 11, 1991
DVD: September 4, 2001
“It’s not what he knows. It’s what he understands.”
his 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.