Little Boy is a Bomb
Directed by: Alejandro Gómez Monteverde
Written by: Alejandro Gómez Monteverde, Pepe Portillo
Starring: Jakob Salvati, David Henrie, Kevin James, Emily Watson, Ted Levine, Michael Rapaport, Ali Landry, Ben Chaplin
Release Date: April 24, 2015
Running Time: 100 minutes
Rated PG-13 for some mature thematic material and violence
The film Little Boy did something so appallingly distasteful it overshadowed what would have been nothing more than a well intentioned if not an overly sappy and poorly executed film. I am referring to the not so subtle link to the bomb that the United States dropped on Hiroshima Japan. For those that may not know, or remember, that bomb was named “Little Boy”. This is a big red flag for me that writers Alejandro Monteverde and Pepe Portillo are so myopic that it never occurred that this might be in poor taste. If I were inclined to ever walk out on a movie I would have walked out on this, just for this single point. Yet, I still gave this film one star, and I’ll tell you why. Because there was a mustard seed’s worth of a decent film behind the lazy writing, poor acting, absent direction, and plot holes the size of Japan, and out of pity.
Little Boy is about Pepper “Little Boy” Busbee (Jakob Salvati) who is a very small person, at around 7 years old stands only about three feet tall. His best and only friend is his dad James (Michael Rapaport). Together they share thousands of imaginary adventures, and a love for Ben Eagle (Ben Chaplin) the superhero magician. When Pepper’s older brother, London (David Henrie) turned 18 he volunteered to do his duty during World War II, but was turned down due to flat feet, this left their father to volunteer (for some unexplained reason) in London’s place. James left to fight in the south pacific, and shortly before, he was due to return home, James became a prisoner of war. Shortly after this revelation, Pepper attended a live Ben Eagle show where he was selected to receive the power to move an inanimate object with his mind by will power (see faith). Around this time they also discovered a lone Japanese man, Hashimoto (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) living in their town, having recently been released from the infamous internment camps. This is a significant source of strife in the town, and pepper immediately took up the banner of hating the “dirty Jap”. This hatred landed London in jail, and Pepper at the Catholic Church saying Hail Mary’s in Latin. This is where the priest, Father Oliver (Tom Wilkinson) shared with Pepper the secret of faith, and how through faith, anything is possible, as long as Pepper completes a list of charitable acts including befriending Hashimoto. Pepper believes this is the key to bringing his father home, and he immediately begins focusing all his energy on this task, to end the war and bring his father home.
The mustard seed worth of good movie, lies in the relationship of Hashimoto and Pepper, and the rest of the town, this has the potential to be a worthwhile story. It was sad to see it diminished so much. The interaction between Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa and Jakob Salvati was good, even sweet. Granted, the interactions would have been better had Jakob Salvati been given better direction and guidance, but for his first acting job, it was not all bad. The problem with reviewing a child-actor’s first job is that they are rarely good, but they are usually small parts that allow them time to develop the skills. I could see Jakob Salvati developing, and learning the craft, he certainly performed with enthusiasm, which is admirable. That is really the only good thing I can say about this movie, the rest is packed with poor acting, dreadfully dull dialogue, inexplicable actions in a town that makes no social and economic sense and tonal disconnects, and heavy-ham-fisted platitudes about faith.