Little Man (2006)

None of these gender clichés is especially funny, and it doesn't help that Marlon Wayans' face often looks sloppily pasted onto the stunt bodies who do all the running around, falling, and crashing.

Little Man

Director: Kennen Ivory Wayans
Cast: Marlon Wayans, Shawn Wayans, Kerry Washington, John Witherspoon, Tracy Morgan, Lochlyn Munro
Distributor: Sony Pictures
MPAA rating: PG-13
Studio: Columbia Pictures
First date: 2006
US Release Date: 2006-07-14 (General release)

Introduced in a prison cell, Calvin (elastic face by Marlon Wayans, short body by Gabe Pimental and Linden Porco) looks very tough. But appearances, as the first three minutes of Little Man work too hard to say, are deceiving. Yes, he's a hardened criminal, his pull-up hardened arm tattooed and his teeth dulled by years of liquor and smoke, but he's also very little, under three feet. And so, he's got a problem. No one takes him seriously. As a man.

It's this concern with his image that appears to drive Calvin. That and the fact that he's caught up inside a Wayans brothers movie that not only rips off Bugs Bunny by way of Roger Rabbit for its premise -- a cigar-chomping miniature criminal disguises himself as a baby, complete with bonnet and goo-goos -- but also interrogates the state of the overworked suburban couple as the product of U.S. commodity culture. That is to say, Little Man does have stuff on its mind, but it tries very hard not to make that obvious.

Calvin's first act on being released from prison -- aside from smashing his 50 Cent-biting partner Percy (Tracy "I parked valet!" Morgan) -- is to steal a gigantic diamond from a posh jeweler's shop. You know it's posh because a white-haired lady brings her lapdog inside, a dog that proceeds to climb inside Cal's disguise (a gym bag) and disrupt the robbery. With cops on their tails, the thieves split up and Calvin ends up dropping the diamond into the nearest bag he can find, belonging to convenience store shopper Vanessa (Kerry Washington).

She and her husband Darryl (Shawn Wayans) happen to be shopping for a pregnancy test. A career-minded dynamo (which you know because she goes to the office on a Saturday), Vanessa would rather not have a child right this minute, while soulful, fatherless Darryl wants nothing more than a son he can take to the park and hockey games. She's not pregnant, which opens the way for Calvin's scheme: rather than sneak into their non-secured picket-fenced home to take the diamond back, he pretends to be the infant they do and don't want. To underline that this is a comedy from the fart-joke-loving Wayans brothers -- a long way from director Keenen Ivory Wayans' on-point spoof I'm Gonna Git You Sucka (1988) -- the baby on the doorstep gimmick is punctuated by a visit from another dog: this one lifts his leg and pees on Cal.

Oh the vulgar hilarity. When Darryl and Vanessa bring the child inside, they and her father, Pops (John Witherspooon) make all sorts of faces to indicate the stink. Pops sees through the disguise right off, establishing that he's paying attention and in for harassments (Calvin rubs Pops' bedtime cookie on his crotch and butt, an ewww-inducing sight gag that only gets worse when the old man chomps down and comments on the cookie's new "bite"). The ensuing grown-man-as-a-baby jokes involve gasps at the sight of the infant's penis ("He's a porn star!" says Pops), a bathtub shared with "daddy" (inspiring farts and homophobia), a rectal thermometer, and a nighttime bedroom visit from the "porn star," leading to Vanessa's next-morning delight that her husband has learned new tricks ("You were an animal! Rrrr!").

When the couple decides to keep the baby for the weekend, the movie launches into something of a suburban-parents parody, as they spend time with their childed friends: they go to the park, they have a birthday party (with an appearance by a kids' tv favorite named D-Rex, here, Rob Schneider in a blue dinosaur suit). Hyper-competitive Greg (Lochlyn Munro) brings along his buxom wife Brittany (Brittany Daniel), whose bouncing breasts provide Calvin with several opportunities to ogle and grab. No surprise, Brittany tends to dress in midriff-revealing, cleavage-enhancing outfits, thus marking her difference from Vanessa's other friend, dowdy and devoted mother Janet (Alex Borstein), who wears oversized sweatshirts and carries castor oil in her baby bag.

She also tends to ignore her young son, leaving him to be influenced by Greg's overbearing, preening, unconvincing machismo. His manly man routine -- he knocks over and slaps down little kids during a backyard football game (a scene that rips off Will Ferrell's beating up little kids on his soccer team in Kicking & Screaming) -- gets a couple of comeuppances, both simplistic. The first is delivered by Cal, who slams him to the ground and whomps him in the crotch, leaving him open to criticism from his son ("You're a pussy"). The second is embodied by a gangster named Walken (Chazz Palminteri), in lukewarm pursuit of Cal's diamond, accompanied by a pony-tailed thug and a bald one: all are bested, in a final showdown, by Cal's crotch-whomping (being short, he has a defined target area).

None of these gender clichés is especially funny, and it doesn't help that Marlon Wayans' face often looks sloppily pasted onto the stunt bodies who do all the running around, falling, and crashing. Granted, the Wayans' lucrative franchise is premised on not spending much money upfront, so the profits start almost as soon as the films hit theaters. But the cheapness here is more pervasive, in that the "moral" -- it's good to be and have a dad -- turns insipid as the movie hammers it home, again and again. Vanessa comes to see that she needs to let go of her career plans to become a mom, and Darryl comes to see that he can be a buddy to the little man who is pretending to be his son (even if that little man is sleeping with his wife). As long as mom stays home with the baby so they can drink beers, go to hockey games, and beat up gangsters together, the guys are happy.

Little Man - Theatrical Trailer






Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".


Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.


The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.


Landowner's 'Consultant' Is OCD-Post-Punk With Obsessive Precision

Landowner's Consultant has all the energy of a punk-rock record but none of the distorted power chords.


NYFF: 'American Utopia' Sets a Glorious Tone for Our Difficult Times

Spike Lee's crisp concert film of David Byrne's Broadway show, American Utopia, embraces the hopes and anxieties of the present moment.


South Africa's Phelimuncasi Thrill with Their Gqom Beats on '2013-2019'

A new Phelimuncasi anthology from Nyege Nyege Tapes introduces listeners to gqom and the dancefloors of Durban, South Africa.


Wolf Parade's 'Apologies to the Queen Mary' Turns 15

Wolf Parade's debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, is an indie rock classic. It's a testament to how creative, vital, and exciting the indie rock scene felt in the 2000s.


Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.


Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.


Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.


Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.


Sufjan Stevens' 'The Ascension' Is Mostly Captivating

Even though Sufjan Stevens' The Ascension is sometimes too formulaic or trivial to linger, it's still a very good, enjoyable effort.

Jordan Blum

Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.


Sally Anne Morgan Invites Us Into a Metaphorical Safe Space on 'Thread'

With Thread, Sally Anne Morgan shows that traditional folk music is not to be smothered in revivalist praise. It's simply there as a seed with which to plant new gardens.


Godcaster Make the Psych/Funk/Hard Rock Debut of the Year

Godcaster's Long Haired Locusts is a swirling, sloppy mess of guitars, drums, flutes, synths, and apparently whatever else the band had on hand in their Philly basement. It's a highly entertaining and listenable album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.