Little

 

            Jordan Sanders (Regina Hall) is one of those hard-driving, no-nonsense bosses who's clawed her way to the top by charming clients and intimidating employees.  She lives a completely selfish, self-centered life, where she insists that her dutiful Assistant, April (Issa Rae) place her coffee exactly so many inches from the end of her desk, which she does, but the sharp-tongued Ms. Sanders manages to find a way to constantly berate April, anyway.  April even has her own ideas for an advertising “pitch,” but is too reticent to present her ideas to the snarling boss.

            The plot twist here is weak----a little girl playing magician can't even hide a quarter very well, but somehow she manages to wave her wand and turn Jordan Sanders back into a 13-year-old.  Here's where Marsai Martin takes over as little Jordan Sanders.  She'd rather just continue giving orders to April, but because a nosy neighbor called Child Protective Services, Jordan is forced to go to Middle School, which she hated as a 13-year-old herself.  (There's a “backstory” scene at the beginning that shows us how much the other kids made fun of her and her ambitions.)  April, meanwhile, is glad to try to run the office in the Boss' absence, but to do so in a much more relaxed, cooperative, manner, which the other employees appreciate, but it doesn't exactly make them more productive.  Maybe they needed the emotional abuse to motivate themselves, and the sadist Boss naturally gathered around her a bunch of masochists?

            Well, there are a lot of mini-sketches about the “big” Jordan Sanders being inside the “little” one, and some of the scenarios work better than others.  We cringe when she tries to hug a shirtless man, or make eyes at her teacher.  But even the comedy that works is about awkward situations, so we have to depend on the star power of Marsai Martin, which is noteworthy, but can't really carry the whole movie.

            There are some cute moments, but the “value lessons” are so amorphous that they can't even summarize them very well at the end.  The viewers definitely don't leave the theater wishing they were back in Middle School.  But lighthearted comedy is in short supply these days, and this one is pretty much cute and harmless, playing up to a little bit of heart.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association