Sometimes there are movies you just don't get. To be honest, I've always kinda felt that way about the films of the Wayans Brothers (that's Damon, Wayon, Marlon, Keenan and Tito, in case you didn't know). Even their biggest hits, such as 'Scary Movie,' 'A Low Down Dirty Shame' and 'White Chicks,' left me cold and disconnected. It's the same feeling I've had during movies like 'Look Who's Talking,' 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' and 'Austin Powers.' I'd sit there in the theater while everyone else around me was roaring with laugher, and I could only feel like an alien. What was wrong with me? Was I missing some sort of comedy gene? Why was I not "getting it?"
My luckless streak with the Wayans continues with 'Little Man,' another of their low-brow comedies that once again -- and inexplicably -- hit the box office bull's-eye. This movie's plot is so high-concept it can literally be summed up in one sentence: Wannabe dad Darryl (Shawn Wayans) mistakes "vertically challenged" criminal on the lam Calvin (Marlon Wayans) as his newly adopted son, and hilarity ensues as Darryl and his wife Vanessa (Kerry Washington) attempt to integrate Calvin into their social circle. And that's it.
Perusing the IMDB page for 'Little Man,' I was initially heartened to see that the film currently ranks 30th on the site's all-time worst movies list (above 'Battlefield Earth' and 'Shanghai Surprise' -- quite an accomplishment). And I fully expected to hate this movie going in. So the big surprise of 'Little Man' is that I didn't totally despise it. I can't say it is a good movie -- far from it -- but it is hard to completely hate a movie that isn't so much a story as it is a string of fart, boob and penis jokes. And as directed by Keenan Wayans, it has some small modicum of charm and whimsy that almost offsets the relentless sexism and homophobia that continues to mar the Brothers' work.
Reviewing a movie like this is like mining for gold among the sludge -- even the slightest chuckle becomes a gutbuster because any laugh is a relief. The film's big hook was shrinking Marlon Wayans down to the size of an infant via cutting-edge (if totally creepy) computer-generated imagery. Indeed, the effects are rather impressive at first -- rarely can you see the digital seams -- though it quickly wears out its welcome. Most of the characters are also unappealing, with only the underrated Washington elevating her jokes above the typical TV sitcom variety -- she is cheerful and appealing while most of the rest of the cast is just crass and over-the-top. I also giggled at some of the more pointed satire in the film, in particular how Darryl and Vanessa attempt to integrate their family with a mostly-white neighborhood. Had the Wayans perhaps moved more in this direction and taken their movie's concept more seriously, they might have created a truly topical, inspired comedy. As is, 'Little Man' is a pretty little film.
'Little Man' gets a 1080p/MPEG-2 transfer courtesy of Sony, and really, they shouldn't have. (Okay, cheap shot.) Feelings about the film aside, it looks pretty good on Blu-ray. The image has a very "hot" look, typical of many movies today. Whites are too strong for my taste, which gives the transfer a bit of a washed out look. Colors appear almost oversaturated, but also a bit washed out because the contrast is so cranked up. Fleshtones are also too reddish for my taste, but that may be an artistic decision on behalf of the filmmakers (though using the words "artistic" and "Little Man" in the same sentence may be an oxymoron).
All other aspects of the transfer are solid. The source material is pristine, with slight film grain but no noise visible. Sharpness is crisp and consistent, and detail fairly strong. However, given the hot contrast and tweaked colors, the image can sometimes seem flat. 'Little Man' certainly does not have the tremendous sense of depth I associate with great high-def. Still, given the TV movie-esque look of 'Little Man,' this transfer is decent enough.
Like its visuals, 'Little Man' is hardly ambitious when it comes to sound design. This is the prototypical comedy soundtrack, primarily front-heavy with little in the way of inventive surround effects and atmosphere.
Presented in uncompressed PCM 5.1 surround audio, the track sounds good. Dialogue is clear and natural, with average mid- and high-range and decent .1 LFE. Rear activity is fairly dull. There is the occasional discrete effect, usually for secondary sounds like traffic, etc. The film's meager use of music is also subdued, with most of Teddy Castellucci's score lost in the mix.
'Little Man' comes to Blu-ray billed as the "Loaded with Extra Crap Edition," and never has there been such truth in advertising.
Strangely, Sony did not port over the audio commentary with the Wayan Brothers from the standard-def DVD release of 'Little Man.' Instead, it is up to four featurettes to pick up the slack. "Big Comedy: The Making of 'Little Man'" (14 minutes) is admittedly better than your typical EPK, because it actually takes the Wayans "creative process" seriously, and doesn't just recap the movie's plot. Still, this is 'Little Man,' not 'Brokeback Mountain,' so there is only so much pretension I can take. Better is "From the Ground Up" (15 minutes), which dissects the film's well-done visual effects. How do you turn a 6-foot Marlon Wayans into a 3-foot tall little person? Turns out, very carefully, by using a nine-year-old "body double" and CGI. Pretty cool, actually, however creepy. Finally, "Lindon's World" (11 minutes) reveals the titular little person, Lindon Porco. This cute kid has far more personality in the behind-the-scenes footage than any of the crass characters in the movie. Maybe he should have been the star?
Also included are no less than 16 "Unrated" Deleted and Extended Scenes. Nothing here is really outrageous enough to warrant more than the film's PG-13 rating, mostly just snipped jokes and longer versions of scenes. Still, if you like potty humor, these might be worth a watch. Lastly, there is another featurette "Method or Madness," which is actually a mock satire about all the sacrifices the actors had to make to live their roles. Since this is fiction, it almost plays like a deleted scene itself.
Rounding out the set is a theatrical trailer for 'Click,' though oddly there is none for 'Little Man.'
'Little Man' is the kind of low-brow, high-concept comedy Hollywood loves to churn out because they are made cheap enough to turn a profit on opening weekend. Unfortunately, movie fans are the ones who actually have to watch this stuff, not movie executives. Though I got paid to sit through this crap, please heed my warning and don't spend your hard-earned money to suffer the same indignity. But if you must, this is a solid enough Blu-ray release -- the transfer and soundtrack are perfectly fine, and the extras, well, they're as tasteless as the movie. This one is definitely for Wayans fans only.