Now in theaters, Little centers on successful CEO and entrepreneur Jordan Sanders (Regina Hall) and her assistant, April (Issa Rae). After she was bullied as a child, Jordan grows up to be a pretty big bully herself, berating and belittling her employees and keeping everyone at arm’s length. When she goes too far in discouraging an elementary school-aged wizard, the little girl casts a spell wishing that Jordan was little. The next morning, she wakes up as herself at 13. Little Jordan (Marsai Martin) is forced to go to school, with April posing as her guardian. She will have to face the mistakes of her youth in order to get her adult life back.
If the plot to Little sounds familiar, that is because you have probably seen sometimes similar play out in movies like Big, Freaky Friday, or 13 Going on 30, the difference being, of course, that the big person is trapped in a little body. When that little person is as confident and smart as Marsai Martin, the effect does not play quite as humorously as you might expect. Although I think Martin is really strong and funny and I enjoyed watching her and Issa Rae play off of each other, she does not come off as much of a fish out of water, especially considering that she has boatloads of money that she can use to make her 13 year-old self cool. Also, most of the jokes that emphasize her youth revolve around alcohol or inappropriate flirtation with adult men. It just doesn’t quite work.
Conversely, the dynamics between the female characters are fun to see unfold. I especially enjoyed watching April thrive once Jordan gets out of her way. The cast has great chemistry together and the sets, wardrobe, and music add a lot of texture and brightness. The movie gets points for girl power and real estate envy, but since the central gag falls so flat, I’d suggest renting it instead of seeing it at the theater.
Little was written by Tracy Oliver and Tina Gordon, who also directs. It runs 1 hour 49 minutes and is rated PG-13 for some suggestive content.
In contrast, Unicorn Store is the story of Kit (Brie Larson) an adult woman who cannot seem to grow up. Kit takes her passion for rainbows and unicorns to art school and ends up flunking out. There is some indication that maybe the stuffy men in charge just expect her to conform and she refuses, but we do not really see enough art to know. After moving back in with her parents (Joan Cusack and Bradley Whitford), who run a camp focused on emotional growth for at-risk youth, Kit takes a job at a temp agency, mostly so they do not think she’s a complete failure. Not much later, Kit gets a mysterious invitation to a Unicorn Store where the salesman (Samuel L. Jackson) puts her through some tests before she can take home a unicorn of her own.
I had pretty high hopes for this movie because I like Brie Larson and the story sounded so off-beat. In execution, however, the result is actually way more childish than Little. And this one is about grown people. Kit’s petulance makes her a bit hard to root for. That said, she is still likeable enough and the central story was charming enough to keep me interested. There are also some great nuggets of wisdom courtesy of Kit’s parents, my favorite of which is: “Nothing is more adult than failing at what you really care about.”
All things considered, Unicorn Store does some fun things with color and character and has an intriguing hook, but I would not recommend it for just anytime. This is a great movie to watch when you are having a bad day and feel bad about yourself.
Streaming on Netflix, Unicorn Store was written by Samantha McIntyre and directed by Brie Larson. It runs 1 hour 32 minutes and is rated TV-PG.