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Review: Little Boy

Jakob Salvati stars in Open Road Films' "Little Boy"

There comes a time where we all have to separate from our parents. For most of us,this happens as we get older and move on to our own lives as adults, but for others who are less fortunate, the separation is abrupt and disruptive. The story in Little Boy looks at a kid who’s presented with that issue when his father is ripped away from him out of nowhere.

Pepper Flynt Busbee (Jakob Salvati) is a little boy with an extremely strong bond with his caring father (Michael Rapaport). They’ve been inseparable since Pepper was brought into this world, but that relationship comes to a halt when the leader of the Busbee clan is sucked into the chambers of World War II. This is clearly a difficult time for both father and son, but it turns out to be a chance for the kid to learn about life in a way that introduces him to faith, tolerance and hope.

There are plenty of us who dislike the gooey stuff that comes in film sometimes, but there’s always room in my heart for that kind or stuff. For Little Boy, I can see people not responding well to the sappiness, but for me, there isn’t enough of it. In my opinion, when you use anything like that, you need to lay it on thicker than it is in Little Boy. Adding more of that could have made it a bit more playful.

What’s supposed to be heartwarming and powerful doesn’t quite get to where it wants to go. The elements to make that happen are here for the most part, but in order to achieve that, there needed to be more. For whatever reason, there’s a dry feeling to much of what is being put on display in this feature film. This doesn’t allow you to truly feel the sense of attachment that you should feel even though there are plenty of things that are being utilized.

There should also be a childlike innocence in movies like this, but that’s absent as far as the tone of this picture is concerned. The child actor in the lead role has the innocence necessary to drive the movie in the right direction, but the story that sees him at the center can’t keep up with him in that aspect. It lulls behind without ever feeling like a picture that’s kid or family friendly outside of Pepper and some of the scenes of him learning about life.

This film is too thick and subdued for a film of this genre. Although it seems as if it should be lighter in most instances, it’s heavy and is geared more toward adults in that way. I can’t definitively say I know if Alejandro Monteverde made this with the hopes of creating an affectionate piece that people of all ages could relate to, but if he did, he failed at doing so.

Putting the focus back on Pepper, his character is one of the most delightful kids you’re going to see in film. He’s the easy kind of protagonist you can support. Not only that, he’d be the type of kid most of us would probably envision if we had a chance to mold our kids as far as personalities are concerned. His character is constantly hopeful and open just like plenty of us were when we were his age. It’s an element of the film that is good and easiest to connect with.

There are some positive messages about tolerance and faith here, so Little Boy isn’t completely lost outside of Pepper and his hopes of somehow willing his father back from the war. Those features are things that people can appreciate even if films like this don’t handle them as well as they should.

Obviously there will be cheesy aspects involved, but outside of that and the lack of childlike innocence, it’s not the worse movie you could watch. You’re certain to find better movies to see other than Little Boy, but if you want to see this for some reason, it wouldn’t kill you. Would I suggest people go and spend their money to see? No, but it’s not something I’d completely discourage.

Rating: PG-13

Director: Alejandro Monteverde

Cast:
Kevin James
Emily Watson
Tom Wilkinson
Ben Chaplin
Michael Rapaport
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa
Ted Levine
David Henrie
Eduardo Verastegui
Jakob Salvati

Film Length: 106 minutes

Release Date: April 24, 2015

Distributor: Open Road Films

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