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Calvin Sims isn't even three feet tall. But his diminutive stature hasn't kept the little man from a life of crime. After being paroled from prison, the tiny, tattooed thug wastes no time hooking up with criminal partner Percy P, and the pair promptly steals a massive diamond for Percy's crime-lord boss, Mr. Walken. Their getaway, however, goes awry. Trying to elude police, Calvin and Percy duck into a convenience store, and a cornered Calvin is forced to drop the huge rock into the purse of an unsuspecting woman named Vanessa Edwards.
The would-be jewel thieves surreptitiously tail Vanessa and her husband, Darryl, to their home to retrieve the diamond. Eavesdropping on them (and Vanessa's cantankerous live-in father, Pops), Calvin and Percy discover that Darryl desperately wants children. Career-minded Vanessa, however, isn't so sure. She's just been promoted to vice president at her advertising firm, and she doubts whether Darryl has what it takes to be a dad. So Percy decides to accelerate the couple's parenthood plans by dressing up Calvin as an "infant" and abandoning him on their doorstep.
Chaos erupts when Darryl and Vanessa embrace Calvin as their own—though there are plenty of signs that baby is anything but. Even as Calvin's determined attempts to retrieve the diamond are foiled time after time, Darryl and Vanessa fall more and more in love with their precocious "tot." For his part, Pops is convinced that something just isn't right, forcing Calvin to work overtime to protect his true identity. Meanwhile, Mr. Walken turns up the heat on Percy to retrieve the purloined gem, threatening to sick his goons Bruno and Rosco on the hapless crook if he doesn't produce the booty—fast.
One of the surprisingly positive elements of this film is how much it celebrates the family, specifically fatherhood. Darryl is depicted as a good guy who relishes his new role as a father. He says things such as, "It's good to be Dad," "I'll never abandon my child," and "Fatherhood is cool. I get to do things I didn't do with my dad." He's not afraid to tell Calvin that he loves him. By the end of the film, Calvin cries (though it's played humorously, of course) at the thought of leaving his new adoptive family.
The Edwardses have good friendships with two other intact families with kids. They celebrate birthdays together and talk about how they're raising their kids. Though one of those couples (Greg and Brittney) has some issues (more below), friendship is clearly presented as a good thing. The other pair, Janet and Richard, is depicted as very conscientious, and Janet unabashedly sings the praises of motherhood. She tells Vanessa how much more fulfilling it is than the corporate world. Janet's convictions about motherhood challenge Vanessa to consider whether motherhood might actually be more satisfying than her work.
Calvin displays loyalty when he returns to the Edwards house to protect the family after he learns that Mr. Walken and his meanies are headed there for the diamond.
Vanessa's friend Janet says of Calvin, "He's a precious little gift of God," then adds, "God wraps some gifts in a hurry." Vanessa uses the phrase, "God knows what could happen."
Little Man is full of brassy sexual innuendo (verbal and visual), and Calvin is at the center of much of it. He's a vocal fan of strip clubs and prostitutes. And when Brittney always shows up wearing tight, cleavage-baring tops, they attract his full, pawing attention. A scene involves breastfeeding Calvin (under a blanket), and it's suggested that he bites the woman (we hear a chomping noise). It's also implied that he watches Darryl and Vanessa have sex, then sneaks in to have sex with Vanessa as well (she's so tired she thinks it's her husband).
When Vanessa innocently kisses Calvin's stomach, he tries to shove her head down further. In a scene in which Calvin is in the bathtub (covered with suds), Vanessa asks if he wants some company. He eagerly nods his approval—then Darryl gets in the tub with him, much to his horror.
When Darryl, Vanessa and Pops change Calvin's "diaper" for the first time, they crudely compare his anatomy to a porn star's. Other crass sexual dialogue refers to Viagra, sperm count and afternoon quickies. A man hugging another man says, "This ain't Brokeback Mountain."
Several scenes show Vanessa in lingerie, and a number of women wear revealing shirts. Brittany does a football cheer with suggestive moves while repeating, "Put it in!" A musician's performance includes exaggerated, suggestive hip thrusts. Percy is seen in boxer shorts.
The violent content in the film is mostly played as slapstick, à la Home Alone. Percy knocks down Calvin with the car door because he didn't see him. Whenever Percy messes up, however, Calvin slaps him—at least four times during the film—and even shoves him out of a moving car at one point. Similar meant-for-laughs violence includes Calvin grabbing and breaking Richard's nose, and the pint-sized crook hitting Darryl on the head with a frying pan. The most common sight gag is men getting hit in the crotch with fists and various projectiles (toy planes, baseballs, plastic rockets, etc.), which happens at least nine times.
In a game of "touch" football, testosterone-filled Greg takes things way too far, hitting both adults and kids hard—he even picks up his own son by the facemask of his football helmet. Calvin eventually hits him in the crotch to stop him.
Mr. Walken and his two henchmen get their clocks cleaned by Calvin, who repeatedly assaults them with various toys, kicks them and knocks two of them down the stairs. (This scene, among others, is especially similar to Home Alone.)
At a hockey game, Calvin taunts a player in the penalty box, who then breaks through the glass and attacks both him and Darryl. Pops pulls a shotgun on Calvin as he's trying to use the phone. Other violence includes Calvin crawling into the dinosaur costume of a kids entertainer and biting him, the sound of Pops being tasered (offscreen) by nursing-home employees, and Darryl smashing Percy's head with an aluminum garbage lid. After Percy lies to Darryl, telling him that Calvin is his son, Darryl says, "You should be castrated."
Crude or Profane Language
Characters use "h---" and "d--n" seven or eight times each. They also take God's name in vain a half-dozen times. One person exclaims, "Sweet bejesus." More than half-a-dozen other mild crudities are spoken, and a woman uses the slang expression "shiznit." Calvin gives Pops the finger. When Richard is knocked down during the football game, Greg asks, "Did it hurt your vagina?"
Drug and Alcohol Content
Darryl and Vanessa share a celebratory glass of champagne at a restaurant. Mr. Walken and his associates drink hard liquor in one scene. A taxi driver smokes a cigar. Darryl describes his father-in-law as "Fred Sanford on crack." A saleswoman at a jewelry store suggests a gin and juice concoction for Percy.
Other Negative Elements
Though Little Man is in some ways pro-family, Darryl has a terrible relationship with Pops, who's constantly belittling him. Pops suggests to his daughter that her promotion will provide enough money for her to leave her husband. He has a similarly bad attitude toward Calvin and often says nasty things such as, "Toss that little monster out the window," and, "Thought you were Chucky."
But Calvin gives as good as he gets. One of the film's most disgusting scenes has him taking a cookie off Pops' plate, shoving it down his pants, then putting it back. Pops, of course, eats it. Another gross scene happens early in Calvin's "baby" career. As he's lying in a baby basket on the steps of the Edwards house, a dog walks by and urinates on his face and into his open mouth.
Other bathroom humor includes Darryl passing gas in the tub with Calvin, taking the little guy's temperature with a rectal thermometer, and both Calvin and Darryl unknowingly drinking Janet's breast milk (and spitting it out when they discover its source). To hold onto the diamond, Calvin eventually swallows it, then takes castor oil to "retrieve" it—resulting in all manner of bodily noises. Vanessa finds the diamond in his diaper and thinks Darryl has planted it there for her (he had yet to buy a diamond for his wife because he was too broke).
Changing subjects, ongoing satirical racial commentary involves black police chasing African-American criminals and white police pursuing Caucasian ones. Further satire depicts police as mindlessly and unnecessarily brutal, as an innocent black man is repeatedly clubbed even though he's not a suspect.
Calvin plays poker with small children in a park and takes their money. He also promises to sell them pictures of naked girls the next day. Percy steals a diaper bag, thinking the diamond is in it; he's caught, kicked and beaten by a mob of moms and kids. Greg constantly harasses Richard and his son for not being manly enough. A deranged soccer mom drives crazily, almost has several accidents and brags about deliberately leaving her son at an amusement park—for a week—to get some time to herself.
Even though Calvin and Percy stole the diamond, there are ultimately no legal consequences for them, as Mr. Walken and his thugs end up taking the rap.
Heading into Little Man, I had steeled myself for an onslaught of the Wayans brothers' trademark brand of crude, boundary-pushing humor. If White Chicks and the Scary Movie franchise were any indicators, it would be a long two hours. And from what I'd seen in the previews, I had zero expectation that the film would have anything positive to say.
Surprisingly, it paints a generally positive picture of marriage, motherhood and fatherhood (Pops' bad attitude notwithstanding). And in a world where fathers often take the brunt of harsh jokes—especially in comedy—the Wayans clan deserves credit for daring to suggest that fatherhood is cool. In this sense, Little Man is a step in the right direction for this famous comedic family.
Unfortunately, Little Man is a one-step-forward, two-steps-back proposition, as the movie's positive emphasis on family still gets clobbered by its infatuation with extreme crudity and gross innuendoes. Sure, the Wayans' latest is arguably less offensive than their other recent offerings. But their love affair with perverse sexuality and scatology has yet to come to an end.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Marlon Wayans as Calvin Simms; Shawn Wayans as Darryl Edwards; Tracy Morgan as Percy P; Kerry Washington as Vanessa Edwards; John Witherspoon as Pops; Chazz Palminteri as Mr. Walken; Molly Shannon as Soccer Mom; Lochlyn Munro as Greg; Brittany Daniel as Brittany; Matthew Ast as Tommy; Fred Stoller as Richard; Alex Borstein as Janet; Reece Knight as Nicholas; John DeSantis as Bruno; Dave Sheridan as Rosco
Keenen Ivory Wayans ( )