Little ★★

The word on Tina Gordon’s “Little,” a slapdash modern inversion of “Big,” is that “Black-ish” star Marsai Martin came up with the idea for the movie when she was only 10 years old, and became the youngest executive producer in Hollywood history when the thing actually went into production a few years later. That’s a nice bit of trivia, but “the hacky premise for this studio comedy was pitched by the child star of a network sitcom” may not be the strongest hook for a PG-13 comedy that’s aimed at adults (though also still appropriate for older kids). If anything, it sounded like a chintzy excuse to soft-pedal another lazy remake at a time when audiences are desperate for original fare that rewards their decision to leave Netflix at home for the night.

And maybe it was. The finished product won’t exactly disabuse you of your most cynical assumptions; not when the pivotal transformation scene has the half-assed feel of an “SNL” sketch, not when the protagonist’s learned hostility is expressed through a transphobic joke that doesn’t even have a punchline, and definitely not when Rachel Dratch shows up as a Child Protective Services agent who busts out her best Cardi B trill. That’s par for the course in a comedy that’s probably too of the moment to age well; we can only pray that “Space Force” doesn’t mean anything to people who catch this movie on TV in 10 years.

Nevertheless, “Little” makes one thing perfectly clear: Martin — who was 13 by the time cameras rolled — is a lot more than a cute selling point. As an executive producer she might be something of a gimmick, but as a lead actress she’s a massive star. And when this movie works, it’s often because the mini “Little” mastermind finds a way to deliver a Tom Hanks-level performance in a film that is sorely lacking Penny Marshall-level direction.

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