The 14 year-old Marsai Martin has already captured the hearts of the masses as Diane on the ABC-hit sitcom Black-ish, and now she’s created a new vehicle to showcase her impressive talent in Little. Based on the concept of the 1988 film Big starring Tom Hanks, Little follows Jordan Sanders, played by the always wonderful Regina Hall, as she juggles the pressures of running a tech company and remaining successful. Unfortunately for her staff, which includes her assistant April played by Issa Rae, and anyone else she encounters, Jordan torments anyone in her path and disregards any sort of manners typically attributed to speaking to people after being bullied in school for being herself as a kid. Once she’s transformed into the little version of herself, introducing Martin, by a little girl she bullies, Jordan, with April’s reluctant help, must relearn the magic of being a child with plenty of laughs along the way.
Within the film’s first 20 minutes, Regina Hall electrifies the screen as the adult Jordan. Hall delivers each cruel insult with such effortlessness it almost feels like she slights the audience directly. She’s only allotted about 30 minutes of total screen time but Hall uses each moment to effectively leave a comedic impact. While little Jordan’s journey is to understand the value of the child spirit, April must learn to stand up for herself and her ideas at work as she fills in her indisposed boss. Her role as the sidekick may underuse Rae, the actress still uses each opportunity to she’s allowed to demand her signature charm shine.
Hall and Rae dazzle in their respective roles, but Martin truly stands out as the star. As little Jordan, Martin portrays more of her excellent comedic timing she’s already demonstrated on her hit television show and provides major laughs, and not simply because it can be strangely hilarious hearing adult things being said by a child. Whether it’s physical comedy or a cutting look, Martin demands and elevates each scene. If her impressive performance wasn’t enough, Martin pitched the idea for this film when she was just 10 years-old and serves as one of the executive producers, making her the youngest producer in film history. With a solid first venture as a producer, Martin is poised to give the adults in the industry a run for their money.
The Martin-produced film offers the audience a fun time at the movie theater but closely toes the line of cheesiness, occasionally crossing it with a very formulaic script. Luckily, the three black female leads provide noteworthy chemistry and performances and the thoughtful theme of nurturing our inner child saves the film from it’s sometimes tacky tendencies. Written, directed and produced by black women, Little exudes the true meaning of black girl magic.