Little Man Review (Blu-ray)

Put away that restrained funny bone and grab a beer, because that’s the only way you’ll stomach the latest low-brow comedy from the Wayans brothers, Little Man. Braving cultural and racial territory no other respected filmmakers dare approach, the Wayans have followed up White Chicks with an equally disrespectful and, at times, humorous treatment of a story so absurd, I’m amazing the concept was ever financed to begin with. In fact, the only reason I can think of for Sony to release this film day-and-date with DVD on Blu-ray is to take advantage of the imminent arrival of juvenile Playstation 3 owners in a mere two weeks time.

Grasping the plot of “Little Man” takes little brainpower, unlike the comedy’s frankly revolutionary special effects. Wayans brother Marlon plays Kelvin, a two-foot tall ex-con who stashes a gigantic diamond in the purse of an uppity family and decides to retrieve it by impersonating an abandoned baby. As expected the humor plays off of a baby being in the position to take advantage of the unlikely parents” vulnerabilities, such as seeing the wife naked, breastfeeding and so on. Maybe I was in the right mood and a beer helped me out, but I did find the expressions of a mouthy man’s head on the equivalent of a baby’s body worth a chuckle or two.

In Wayans tradition, the laughs are aimed at adults with an inner child who refuses to go away. A literal example is an obvious Home Alone inspired sequence where Kelvin goes head-to-head against a pair of airhead thugs. Even small kids would get a kick from this sequence and obligatory moral ending, but the Wayans take full advantage of a PG-13 rating by loading up every other scene with crotch, sex and racial jokes not fit for a younger crowd, but perfect for adolescent adults.

The ingenuous story and even jokes play a second fiddle to the seamless special effects work of putting the head of Marlon Wayans atop the undersized body of young actor Linden Porco. I found myself persistently staring at every scene Kelvin whipped his head about in, searching for any faint sign of botched CGI work on or around the character’s head. Not even Blu-ray’s 1080p transfer fully revealed the trick behind the illusion. Hat’s off to the Wayans for finding an effects team both willing to tackle a comedy where the main character is a special effect, and then pull it off as cleanly as they did. Without this distraction I fear Little Man would have been a huge waste of time.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is headed in the right direction with their MPEG-2 video encodes and Little Man is another prime example of that trend. This heavily saturated and somewhat processed transfer is razor sharp both during indoor and outdoor scenes, with exterior shots really packing the three-dimensional quality high definition video needs to. A birthday party thrown for little man Kelvin best illustrates the combination of clean detail, rich colors and, thanks to minimal-yet-steady grain, a film-like image.

On the audio front, the PCM 5.1 uncompressed audio track does what it needs to: keep the audio clean and clear from the front channels. As such, the rear surrounds and .1 LFE are fairly dormant throughout, which is not a surprise or a distraction given the genre. Anything artificially mixed in such as an overbearing score or unnecessary ambient surrounds would hurt more than help the punchlines.

Little Man packs a tall order of extra features that only come up short by failing to offer a commentary track with the Wayans. Helping to partially make up for the slack is The Making of Little Man, a collection of behind-the-scenes footage chock full of fun facts ranging from visual effects to shooting the film twice to Brittany Daniel’s cleavage. The following featurette, Visual Effects, relies too heavily on footage and interview snippets found in Making-Of and comes off as redundant and passable.

The Wayans touch is found in Method of Madness, a spoof of Marlon Wayans pretending he, the actor, were shrunk down to 2 feet tall. There’s some raunchy and funny stuff in here, far more risqué than what ended up in the final feature. Linden’s World takes a step back to investigate young Linden Porco, the actor who played the “body” of Little Man. This little guy is truly remarkable, both on and off camera, and you can bet he’ll find his way into future films. Last are 16 Deleted and Extended Scenes, something always worth checking out when attached to comedies. Cut jokes, a missing basketball scene and even shots of Marlon’s head roughed onto Linden’s body are a fun treat and should not be missed.

Should Little Man have been blessed with a Blu-ray release before the likes of Spider-Man? Absolutely not; however, as a new home video release it was easy for Sony to take advantage of the high-def master, slap on the standard DVD extras and have low-brow comedy fodder for Playstation 3’s soon-to-be owners. I can’t recommend checking out Little Man unless you a) are a fan of the Wayans brothers comedy style, b) in the mood for their type of comedy thanks to a few heavy beers, or c) are hungry for stellar video presentations to take advantage of your Blu-ray player. I recommend all of the above if you don’t want to come away at least partially disappointed.

– Dan Bradley

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