Review: Little Boy


Director:Alejandro Monteverde

Cast:Jakob Salvati, Emily Watson, David Henrie, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa

Running Time:100 Minutes


Like its title character, Little Boy will wear down your defenses and leave you a blubbering mess on the floor. Despite being as sappy as they come, you would have to be a cold-hearted cynic not to be moved by this earnest little World War II movie.

Jakob Salivati plays the precocious Pepper, aptly named Little Boy because of his diminutive stature. Most kids his age pick on him, so his only friend is his dad (Michael Rapaport, restrained and without his Brooklyn accent). Their partnership abruptly comes to a halt when Dad gets shipped off to fight in the Philippines, where he's captured as a POW.

It's not difficult to see the connections to Unbroken, especially since the film plays up the faith angle. Obviously, this is on a much smaller scale with lesser actors, but it's moving all the same. Little Boy takes his bishop's homily a little too seriously, thinking he can actually move mountains by holding a mustard seed. But his priest (Tom Wilkinson) sees the boy's faith as an opportunity to inspire others, mostly by befriending the small town's only Japanese resident (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa).

Like Gran Torino, Little Boy steamrolls through some pretty heinous racism to get to its point about friendship and sacrifice, but it gets there all the same. (There's a heavy-handedness here that was absent from director Alejandro Monteverde's previous film Bella.) For a while, the movie almost seems to forget the connection between father and son in favor of breaking down racial barriers in a very obvious way.

Still, it's hard to imagine anyone walking away from Little Boy without damp eyes and touched hearts. Yes, it makes some clumsy metaphors and some curious choices (like casting Kevin James to play the slimy doctor who's interested in Little Boy's mom). But there's an earnestness that simply can't be denied.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.

Leave a Reply