Starring Jakob Salvati, Emily Watson, Tom Wilkinson, Ted Levine, Ben Chaplin, Kevin James, Michael Rapaport
Can a movie be too sweet? Little Boy sets out to prove that is the case and produced by Roma Downey & Mark Burnett (Son of God), we should have suspected it from the beginning. Its aim is to appease the Norman Rockwell/Andy Griffith crowd, but those days are long gone where family films are concerned. The entire film rests on the shoulders of Little Boy himself Jakob Salvati, being cute, sweet, and so naïve we think he might combust at any moment. If the filmmakers had their sights set on becoming the next Simon Birch (remember that gem starring Ashley Judd and Oliver Platt), it fails because it’s too afraid to blatantly have a Christian message and not edgy enough to feel like a real world story.
When James Busbee (Rapaport) is drafted into WWII from his quant, seaside home in O’Hare California, his family is devastated but none more than his 8-year-old son Pepper (Salvati). Their constant adventures and time spent together would cease until James return from The Philippines to his family owned car repair shop. Dubbed Little Boy due to his short stature, Pepper is given a list by Father Oliver (Wilkinson), he must complete if he wants to bring his father home. The first is to make nice with the town’s only Japanese citizen, Hashimoto (Tagawa) whom he and his teenage brother London (Henrie) vandalized due to his ethnicity. Father Oliver runs a dangerous game playing with the young child who is in most dangers of losing faith not in the world or God, but in himself.
It’s nearly impossible to hate the film because there are good intentions behind it
“Faith won’t work with hatred”, Oliver instructs Pepper, and having faith or finding it becomes the sole purpose of the film. To its credit, Little Boy contains great examples of moral code and life lesson illustrations; yet its delivery and over simplification hurt the message it’s trying to send. Little Boy speaks to the audience like that one person we all know who never gets upset and faking smiles regardless of what’s happening. The characters are revealed to be mostly one sided sticking to fossilized ideas of how a mother should be, Watson’s character stays at home cooking, cleaning and crying for her husband. Or a young teenage grease monkey is stereotypically a racist.
It’s nearly impossible to hate the film because there are good intentions behind it. Even with the respectable cast you hope their diverse talent can strengthen the film beyond a fable. Little Boy has a real chance in the final act to stand for something and administer to the sorrow of life, but it takes the road too often traveled with a happy ending that left a sour taste in my mouth. In the end, all the sentimentality doesn’t necessarily stand for anything and living out a fantasy becomes more important than understanding the idea of faith.
Little Boy is a sugar overload in sweetness losing sight of its own message.