Review: Little Boy Is About Good Old American Racism
Title: Little Boy
Director: Alejandro Monteverde
Screenwriter: Alejandro Monteverde and Pepe Portillo
Principal Cast: Jakob Salvati, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Emily Watson, Michael Rapaport, David Henrie, and Kevin James
Summary: An eight-year-old boy is willing to do whatever it takes to end World War II so he can bring his father home. The story reveals the indescribable love a father has for his little boy and the love a son has for his father.
I somehow managed to avoid trailers for Little Boy, so much so I managed to go in with no real expectations. I have never had my expectations lowered faster than I did the moment that the producer appeared on the screen and read us the summary of the movie taken word for word from IMDB. Some more members of the crew appeared, another said the exact summary and they then explained that this was going to be a very moving movie. I’ve been going to film festivals for a while now so I’m used to people from movies appearing to tell me about the movie, but this was the first time someone tried to tell me how I was supposed to feel before the movie even started.
Little Boy tells the story of racism in California during the World War II era while artificially trying to tug at the viewers heart strings.
I’m going to come right out and explain a scene from this movie that literally had me muttering a swear word under my breath. The title Little Boy comes from the main character, an eight year old boy Pepper (Jakob Salvati), who is very short so everyone starts to call him “little boy”. He wants to bring his Dad (Michael Rapaport) home from World War II and he goes through the process of racism to eventually standing in front of the ocean and trying to fix the war through the power of faith and magic (really). He had previous been trying to move a mountain with these powers when an earthquake struck, so when the town sees him doing this they kind of rally behind him. Little Boy rides into town one morning and everyone tells him “look Little Boy you did it” and show him a newspaper. It’s not a headline announcing the end of the war but the bombing of Hiroshima by the atom bomb, aka “Little Boy”. He then rides through the town with a happy song playing in the background as everyone rejoices that “he did it”.
I wish I was making a word up of that storyline but I’m not. Now, granted, they do eventually show the bomb going off and him wandering through a blackened landscape while dressed in red (metaphors) but that didn’t stop the entire scene from being one of the most tasteless scenes I’ve seen in a movie in a long time. It was in that moment that I realized that the entire point of this movie was to make a metaphor or statement about the atom bomb. This is ignoring the fact that A: we spend half the movie calling a Japanese man a “jap” and “yellow” and B: the Mom (Emily Watson) tells the boy that it might not be a good thing. It isn’t a good thing because an entire city was just wiped off the map and thousands of people just died, but that the Japanese might retaliate by killing American prisoners of war where her husband and Little Boy’s father is. I know that this was probably the mindset of people during World War II and I can’t possibly understand what they went through, but it came off as very “tone deaf” to someone like me.
On top of all this the movie doesn’t have any real moving moments which is why movies like this exist. I feel like they were trying to make a point about racism in the 1940’s, but aside from Little Boy becoming friends with an elderly Japanese man (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) no one really moves on from it. There aren’t any moments where people apologize to him for what they’ve said and done to him so it all becomes meaningless. I also found myself thinking about this kid and how old I was when I stopped believing in magic. It makes the kid come off as annoyingly naïve on a good day and incredibly stupid on a bad one. The movie seems to think they are being deep and meaningful, but the movie is about as subtle as a crowbar to the kneecap.
Little Boy is yet another World War II movie that is trying to be meaningful but only manages to come across as mean spirited and way too heavy handed. There are plenty of better movies dealing with World War II and I would recommend watching any of those over this one.