Little Man (2006)

Reviewed By William Goss
Posted 07/16/06 19:52:51

"Tiny Giggles"
2 stars (Pretty Bad)

From the people who thought that two black men going undercover as two white women was hilarity in the making comes the story of a pint-sized criminal who disguises himself as a baby in an effort to reclaim a stolen diamond. The sad thing is, once you accept, nay, cope with that initial concept, 'Little Man' isn’t quite as truly awful as one would assume, presume, and know deep down in their soul, but just merely bad, mainly banal and mostly bawdy with an untenable spattering of guilty giggles that make it all just a little less painful.

Calvin, the titular “toddler,” is played by the 6’2” Marlon Wayans, whose face is awkwardly superimposed onto the bodies of body doubles not even half that height. When taken in by Darryl (Shawn Wayans) and Vanessa (Kerry Washington), a pair of potential parents who want a child and unwittingly possess the gem, everyone makes exception to his disproportionate member, stabbing scars, and tattoos to the point where even a medical physician passes him off as an infant. Thus, crude slapstick and hijinks ensue as the tiny thief adapts to the father-son lifestyle and arouses the suspicion of Vanessa’s father (John Witherspoon), while his bumbling associate (Tracy Morgan) tries to fend off the concern of their mob boss (Chazz Palminteri).

Believe it or not, the brief appearance of a jivetalkin’ white lady still manages to amuse after all these years, and the initial reactions of the couple’s acquaintances to Calvin’s appearance are pretty humorous (“He’s adorable…in a National Geographic sort of way,” “God gives gifts, and sometimes He wraps them in a hurry”). Among their friends is the predictable pairing of an aggressive father and a nebbish dad, which makes for a conventional, yet comical football game showdown, with a near-psychotic cheerleader of a wife on the sidelines. Also of unanticipated effectiveness is a trio of cameos by David Alan Grier, Molly Shannon, and Rob Schneider, who particularly shows some serious dramatic range by appearing in something other than a Happy Madison production.

However, just when matters seem to have become something that could be easily mistaken for tolerable, the fluke laughs are swiftly interrupted by spurts of squirts and other scatological humor. Add on shameless cleavage attacks, cookie-to-crotch gags, breastfeeding gone awry, bathtub bubble brewing, a half-assed Brokeback Mountain remark, ceremoniously topped off with all the ball bombardment that viewers never even realized they ever could have possibly asked for, and one has discovered the latest ninety-minute redefinition of the term ‘lowest common denominator’. Feel free to equate the 2 out of 5 stars for the 2 out of every 5 jokes that earn a solid snicker, which still makes for an expected majority of groaners.

Although the ensemble cast doesn’t even trouble themselves to do anything more than wait for a punchline, of particular note are Witherspoon, who simply rehashes his crotchety, caustic pops role from a handful of previous films to grumpy and grating effect, and Palminteri, who finds himself serious slumming as the mafia heavy yet again, only more susceptible to groin assault than ever before in his career. The effects used to plaster Marlon’s face onto his dwarf doubles, briefly evidenced in last month’s Click, are theoretically impressive yet rarely seamless and almost always mildly unnerving, and the humor, successful or not, is politically incorrect for the most part, yet never gloriously so, losing its focus somewhere between the puppy pee and ball bashing.

The whole Wayans clan struck gold with the first 'Scary Movie,' only to botch it with its feeble sequel and 'White Chicks,' which manages to make enough money to keep the boat floating for this film. Director Keenen Ivory Wayans seems to be the wisest of the bunch, taking to staying behind the camera and saving himself the embarrassment, even though his directorial skills bring nothing to the table and he shares screenwriting credit with Marlon and Shawn. It almost seems prophetic that to his credit goes 1994’s 'A Low Down Dirty Shame,' a movie that I do recall getting a kick out of at the ripe age of seven. That was over a decade ago, and I would like to think that my tastes have suitably matured. However, I just can’t say the same for Keenen, whose career so far consisting of directing one low down dirty shame right after the other. Heaven help us should he ever decide to break that streak.

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