The body-switching comedy, in which an unsuspecting person finds themselves in a different form and ultimately learns life lessons from the experience, is a genre that never dies; it just keeps popping up, with new variants. “Big,” in which a kid wakes up as Tom Hanks, is often pointed to as a classic of its type, but my own favorite is “All of Me,” in which Lily Tomlin and Steve Martin fight for domination of one body. (Yes, you should go watch it right now.) In “Little,” as the title suggests, we basically have an opposite “Big”: A nasty, demeaning boss, Jordan (Regina Hall), is horrified to wake up as her middle-school-age self (Marsai Martin, of TV’s “Black-ish”) — and eventually learns, more or less, that bullying is wrong.
“Little” should be funnier and a little shorter than it is, and its script occasionally goes to weird places, such as a bizarre scene in which young Jordan and her harried, in-on-the-story assistant April (a delightful Issa Rae) start singing into breadsticks in a restaurant (why?). And a couple of moments in which little Jordan — who’s an adult in a kid’s body — starts aggressively flirting with grown men get a little too close to ickiness. (Adult Jordan has a gentleman friend who drops by wearing tearaway pants; a very “Magic Mike”-ish detail that maybe belongs in another movie. I laughed, though.)
But Martin — who at age 10 came up with and pitched the idea for this movie (she’s now 14) — carries this movie on her small, resolute shoulders. From her first post-transformation scenes, padding down the hallway of Jordan’s sumptuous penthouse in elegant pajamas that trail on the floor, you believe that this diminutive person has a cranky, imperious grown-up inside of her. The eye-rolling, the side-eye, the deepening of the voice, the way she stands as if she’s the tallest person in the room — it’s all perfect, and it all makes “Little” more than a little bit fun to watch. She’s like a tiny Miranda Priestly, swanning around with her enormous designer handbag, leaving terror — and comedy pleasure — in her wake.
★★½ “Little,” with Regina Hall, Marsai Martin, Issa Rae, Tone Bell, Mikey Day. Directed by Tina Gordon, from a screenplay by Tracy Oliver and Gordon. 110 minutes. Rated PG-13 for some suggestive content. Opens April 12 at multiple theaters.