Reviewed by: Ruth Eshuis
|Featuring:||Regina Hall … Jordan Sanders
Issa Rae … April Williams
Marsai Martin … Little Jordan Sanders
Justin Hartley … Mr. Marshall—a teacher on whom 13-year-old Jordan Sanders has a crush
Tracee Ellis Ross … HomeGirl
Tone Bell … Preston
Mikey Day … Connor
JD McCrary … Isaac
Tucker Meek … Devon
Thalia Tran … Raina
Marley Taylor … Stevie
Eva Carlton … Caren Greene / Jasmine
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|Director:||Tina Gordon Chism—“Peeples” (2013), writer of “Drumline”|
|Producer:||Will Packer Productions
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There’s little to love in this strange comedy, which is promoted as ‘irreverent’ and contains huge amounts of misbehavior and abuse.
Audiences are immediately confronted with the tantrums of adult Jordan (Regina Hall), a nasty businesswoman whose world is starting to crumble. She shouts and manipulates her way through life, while others bear the brunt of her unhappiness.
Like many before her, a small child wishes this woman would become “little” again so that she can feel what it’s like for a victim and be taught a lesson. Amazingly the wish is granted… Adult Jordan wakes up the next day in the body of 13-year-old Jordan (Marsai Martin), but in present time. Here begins the weird ride as Jordan and her assistant April (Issa Rae) each come to grips with how to grow up and become a confident leader—without being a bully.
There are a few healthy aspects to this film, which could be built on in discussion with young people:
The film shows that the daily reality of being rich and powerful often isn’t very nice or good (e.g. “It must be lonely to be that tough.”)
It raises issues of lingering regret and pain from our school years, that can affect us negatively a long way into adulthood.
Part of a biblical proverb is quoted: “He who finds a wife finds a good thing” (Proverbs 18:22).
“Little” also spends much energy on identity: “Everyone says you have to grow up to know who you are, but they’re wrong: kids know exactly who they are. Then life beats it out of you.” This reflects the tendency of most people to become less than their potential because of the effects of sin in the world and in each of us.
The good news is that our Creator knows who He designed us to be, so He can easily re-create us to each be the whole and balanced person we’d love to be. God’s Son—Jesus—has won for us a new life that is far beyond our own ability to achieve or create, and it even includes full forgiveness for the awful things we have done to people and to Him.
”He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” —Matthew 18:2-4
All main characters are primarily concerned with getting themselves ahead. This is shown in greedy consumer choices, objectification of others’ bodies and mistreatment of those who show vulnerability. The film’s makers have also sadly chosen to score laughs by use of insults and many other types of abuse (details are listed later). This is especially troubling because dozens of child actors are used.
In addition to the above, other strong and serious concerns include:
Excessive product promotions, especially tempting for those who struggle with alcohol or sweet treats like donuts and bagels.
Portrayal of a 13-year-old girl behaving in romantic and sexualized ways, trying to attract her male teacher. This crosses into dangerous territory that could create difficulties for adults who don’t want or need to view a young person in that way. Of course, it may also influence teens to take on some of that behavior or to begin a new fantasy involving an adult. Let’s not forget that in reality the actor who plays Jordan is currently 14 years old and may now attract unwanted attention for the remainder of her teen years, so please pray for her.
The parents are depicted telling their injured 13-year-old to become rich and successful because, “Nobody bullies the boss,” and the teen adds, “…because I’ll bully them first.”
Making peace with one’s past is portrayed as though it doesn’t need to include confession, atonement or forgiveness.
The consequences of rejecting authority structures are unseen and ignored, to the point of being ridiculous.
Beware—“Little” is also full of triggers for viewers’ own painful memories from school. Many scenes are difficult to watch, even for those who haven’t been bullied. A discerning Christian would not be able to ENJOY this type of ‘entertainment’ because it revels in sin and hurt of many kinds.
Despite its potential to have been a great film, “Little” disappoints by going way too far with its ‘fantasy comedy’ and bizarre behavior. Many teen girls will go along to the cinema with expectation of a light comedy and will instead find an uncomfortably inappropriate experience which will stir up negativity for them. If anyone reading this is a teenager, I’d like to encourage you that adult life doesn’t have to get so ugly—unlike the many adults around us who forever carry unresolved hurts from their school days, living as Christians we are able to enjoy the honesty, freedom and joy of healing as we grow up out of difficult childhoods.
In the end, the decision to combine a serious anti-bullying message and exaggerated humor has hit a predictably sour note. The trailer is exciting, and some acting is marvelous, but, overall, the film drags, and the casting, editing and story-line all lack consistency. There are only just enough great moments to keep a movie-goer in their seat, but you will still leave offended and disappointed for one reason or another.
At the showing I attended with a friend, many viewers sat silently during moments that were intended to be humorous. Using a teen in such a sensual starring role is not a wise choice, and I fear for the young actor’s well-being as she will doubtless have attracted some of the wrong kind of attention through this role (Please pray), as well as influencing girls to seek affection in a dangerous manner.
I trust that you will find a better movie option for your young loved ones.
“Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.” —Ephesians 5:11-12
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.