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Issa Rae, left, and Marsai Martin star in Tina Gordon's Little.

Universal Pictures

  • Little
  • Directed by Tina Gordon
  • Written by Tracy Oliver and Tina Gordon
  • Starring Marsai Martin, Issa Rae and Regina Hall
  • Classification PG; 109 minutes

rating

For all intents and purposes, life starts in middle school. It’s where we begin to be people instead of writhing, annoying blobs of physiology. Like Bo Burnham’s terrific Eighth Grade, Tina Gordon’s Little concentrates on early-teen culture, but unlike Burnham’s nuanced film, the loudly keening Little is soulless, out for chuckles and dependent on people being mean to each other for its prodigious pep. It’s a body-swap Big in reverse, with a rare mostly-black cast and a touch of second-chancing Peggy Sue Got Married.

Regina Hall is a tech mogul boss-from-hell “magically” morphed into her 13-year-old frizzy-haired self, played with considerable aplomb by Marsai Martin from the ABC sitcom Black-ish. Issa Rae, from HBO’s Insecure, plays an – ahem – insecure personal assistant lacking in assertiveness.

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The cast has chemistry, but Little is marred by plot holes, a strange fixation on donuts and at least one inexplicable scene. The “live your best life” aphorisms and anti-bullying messages are possibly well-meaning, but probably just excuses to make a zippy comedy about awkward situations.

Mission accomplished, then, but little else.

Little opens on April 12.

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