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LITTLE BOY (review)

Review by Caitlyn Thompson
Produced by Eduardo Verástegui, Leo Severino
Written by Alejandro Gómez Monteverde, Pepe Portillo
Directed by Alejandro Gómez Monteverde
Starring Jakob Salvati, Emily Watson, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa,
Michael Rapaport, David Henrie, Ben Chaplin,
Ted Levine, Abraham Benrubi, Tom Wilkinson

Keeping a close-up shot on the pouty lips of an adorable little blonde boy does nothing to hide the shockingly offensive nature of Alejandro Monteverde’s film Little Boy.

The plot is supposed to be about a perpetually bullied short little boy, Pepper (Jakob Salvati), who tries to use “magic” in order to ensure his father’s survival of World War II. What it actually is: the glorification of the decimation of a city resting on a pun – “Little Boy” was the codename for the nuke that destroyed Hiroshima.

Guess who the town praised and celebrated for “ending” the war and “saving” people?

Yeah. Little Boy Pepper.

Using laughs and smiles to celebrate a shitty memory, Monteverde attempts to spin the tragedy of WWII into a cutsie story of a naïve boy who’s enabled to believe that magic might save his father from dying.

The film propagates that “magic/religious” deeds can save a life. I agree with the lone, abused Japanese character, Mr. Hashimoto (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa – yes, I yelped, “Shang Tsung!” when I saw him): it’s really irresponsible to encourage a young child’s belief that he actually has control over whether or not his father survives the war. Let’s not forget to mention here that Pepper’s key task is to complete a list of kind actions given to him by a priest, played by Tom Wilkinson.

Those tasks, portrayed as “magical”, along with the rest of the garbage production, culminate into a racist advertisement for the almighty saving power that a list of kind deeds can produce in the name of religion.

While Monteverde may be trying to promote goodness and racial equality by presenting the story in soft sunset lighting alongside a happy-go-lucky soundtrack, he actually makes everything even more offensive. The amount of nonchalant racist comments and constant threats of violence towards Little Boy and Hashimoto are awful and become exhausting to watch. It almost seems like the director’s goal is to repeat slurs and insults as many times as possible for the sake of comedic timing.

Alongside the mismatched music and story, there are random insertions of montages of fantastical scenes; some spew the line “do you believe you can do this?!”, others depict Japanese ancestry among other things. What? These scenes are jarring and unmoving. Whoever storyboarded or edited this film needs to try again, or better yet, never try again because the film is just bad. Can’t be salvaged into something remotely decent.

The wardrobes are also cheap and kitschy. The upward slanted rimmed hat, raggedy khakis, or pearl necklaces – they don’t look time-appropriate, they look like satirical high-school-production-level props. All unappealing and annoyingly tacky.

Oh. Let’s talk about the voice over – the completely pointless voiceover. It seemed this adult voice of Little Boy would eventually reveal some sort of future growth or success of the character.

No. Nothing. Just a jolly voice speaking over a cruddy script.

You know what a good story of a small child is? A Prayer for Owen Meany.

The film version, Simon Birch, isn’t spectacular, but at least the religious overtones aren’t overshadowed by blunt racism and hatred for the sake of just being hateful.

There is really nothing positive to say about this movie whatsoever.

Simply, Little Boy is a flat out incredibly distasteful film.

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