Little Man Review

Buried deep - very deep! - in Little Man is a funny satire on parenthood in suburban America. There are some decent scenes tucked away in the midsection of the film, the best being a hilarious cameo from Molly Shannon as an insane, SUV-driving "soccer mom". There's good material here but, damn, do you have to sit through some crap to get to it!

The crap is mostly related to the film's "comic" crime plot, which concerns a dwarf called Calvin (Marlon Wayans) who is a professional thief. When a diamond robbery goes wrong, he and his criminal partner Percy (Tracy Morgan) are forced to hide the gem in the handbag of career woman Vanessa (Kerry Washington). To retrieve it later, they need to get into the house she shares with her husband Darryl (Shawn Wayans). Overhearing the couple arguing about having a child, they have an idea: Calvin will use his small stature to pose as a baby and Percy will leave him on Darryl and Vanessa's doorstep.

This is not a particularly great concept for a comedy but it might be a passable one if Marlon Wayans was remotely convincing as a baby or at least if he was funny as one. In fact he's even less convincing as an infant than he was as an heiress in White Chicks and while he earns a few laughs from leering at the women who pet him and from crawling desperately away from a rectal thermometer, neither he nor the movie are able to find anything especially funny about babies, which makes you wonder why they bothered.

The Wayans brothers - writer-director Keenen Ivory and co-writers and stars Marlon and Shawn - are talented people. Keenen made the blaxploitation spoof I'm Gonna Get You Sucka! and collaborated with his numerous brothers and sisters on the long-running sketch show In Living Color, which made stars out of Damon Wayans and Jim Carrey. All the Wayans' comedies have funny scenes in them. White Chicks is an amusing poke at rich girls like the Hilton sisters, once you've got used to the atrocious white make-up. Even Scary Movie 2 has James Woods doing a good parody of The Exorcist.

The trouble with the Wayans is they seem to have no confidence in their audience. They think we won't watch them make fun of the rich WASP set unless they do it in the context of a stupid rip-off of Tootsie. They think we won't enjoy their gags about suburbanites unless they're shoe-horned into an idiotic plot about a thief posing as a baby.

I don't think they're right. The mostly young audience I saw Little Man with seemed to laugh at the same things I did - some of the toilet humour, sure, but the smarter stuff too - Molly Shannon's scene and a touch football game organised by a psychotic sports dad (Lochlyn Munro). They were also silent during the same things, such as the gangster subplot involving Chazz Palminteri playing yet another comedy mobster and a pointless, tasteless running joke about a black cop who enjoys beating up black people.

Multiplex audiences are often blamed for the dumbing down of cinema. I think that's unfair and the actual problem is contempt for audiences on the part of the filmmakers. Maybe the Wayans brothers should aim a little higher with their next film and try not taking us for idiots.

Incidentally, the special effects which shrink Marlon Wayans into the diminutive Calvin are mostly well done, if not as flawless as the similar hobbit effects in Lord Of The Rings. Some scenes make you wonder how they did it, others make it all too obvious.



out of 10

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