By Dwight Brown NNPA News Wire Film Critic | 4/14/2019, 7:01 a.m.
Little is a guilty pleasure. The guilt comes as you watch a 14-year-old actress (Marsai Martin, Black-ish) behaving like a ...
Marsai Martin in "Little" Universal Pictures

All the elements of a decent comedy are in place and director/co-writer Tina Gordon is quite adept at working this female-driven story into a pleasant experience. Though what’s on view is sexy at times, it never reaches the outer limits of Girls Trip. Though some may deem this as a paint-by-numbers film, it’s a bit less predictable than the similar but inferior What Men Want, which also had a female executive character who lived in Atlanta.

When things lag, it’s the woman in a kid’s body gag that helps the film keep an edge. Gordon is great at milking spirited performances out of the entire cast. Her direction is not too stagey, though this does feel more like a Netflix or cable movie than a theatrical release. Still, thanks to her interpretation of the material, the film is likely to attract and partially please female viewers (they’ll like the romance and the woman’s world approach) and young teens (little Jordan deals with everyday school problems and they’ll be amused by her naughty nature).

The normal background white-noise music (Germaine Franco) seems dull. However, when real songs kick in, the musical choices seem hip. Don’t know how Danielle Hollowell picked or created the over-the-top and brightly colored costumes, but they are a standout. Particularly Martin’s over-sized, window-paned pink suit and Rae’s borrowed gold skirt. The outfits scream contemporary Atlanta. Also of note, the cinematography by Greg Gardiner (Girls Trip, Night School) lights the cast’s divergent complexions perfectly. Everyone looks great, like they should be doing a magazine spread.

Given a premise that is novel but not new, a script that is worthy but not stellar and a location (Atlanta) this is overused, the cast succeeds regardless. Regina Hall is marking her territory. She is a gifted comic actress and her mood swings from mean to meaner to meanest are hysterically funny. She’s a go-to comic actress. The dour Rae makes Hall’s perfect foil. The guys—James, Bell and Hartley—are up to the task. Cameos by SNL’s Mikey Day as the selfish client Connor and Rachel Dratch as a truant officer are humor filled.

However, only one artist can take credit for turning a seed of an idea into a bonafide comedy, and that’s Marsai Martin. When obstacles were placed in front of her, she broke through them. She took on a challenging role and nailed it. The camera catches all of her weird facial expressions and mannerisms. Her comic timing is impeccable. She knows when to clown around, be demure, introspective and direct. This is a big first step in what should be a promising film career.

If you feel a little uncomfortable when little Jordan winks at her teacher or cozies up to big Jordan’s lover, you aren’t alone. If the scenes of April administering a spanking to a teen make you queasy, it’s because they should. But know that Martin, Hall and Rae will make you laugh your ass off, even as you’re calling child protective services.

Visit NNPA News Wire Film Critic Dwight Brown at DwightBrownInk.comand