Little Boy: Halfway Between Heartwarming and Heartbreaking
Little Boy is a tale of faith, family and unlikely friendship in so pure a sense that it could have only been told through a child’s eyes. Rarely does a movie about war strike a perfect balance between emotions but Little Boy surprisingly manages to do so.
The movie begins by establishing adorable 8-year-old Pepper Busbee’s very close relationship with his father, (Michael Rapaport), as well as his distinguishing characteristic – he is extremely short for his age, which earns him the nickname “Little Boy” in his small town. The movie takes place at the beginning of the World War II, and since Pepper’s brother (David Henrie) is unable to enlist, his dad must go instead. Pepper is crushed when his hero has to leave.
The plot thickens when Pepper goes to a magic show where the magician calls him up on stage and convinces him that he has super powers. From then on, Pepper tries to use his “powers”, along with the completion of a list of good deeds given to him by his priest, to bring his father back from war. Along the way, he befriends a harshly misjudged Japanese man named Mr. Hashimoto (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), who is a victim of severe racial oppression within the town.
I really wasn’t sure what to think of this movie going into it based on the theatricalities of the trailer and the fact that Paul Blart: Mall Cop was scheduled to make an appearance (Kevin James appears in a cameo as a doctor), but thankfully, it was much more toned down than I had imagined. It was charming to watch the friendless Pepper get over his engrained beliefs about Hashimoto and begin to genuinely bond with him. This element of the film offers a really nice whimsical balance to the sadness of his dad being away at war. As he crosses the good deeds off his list, we watch Pepper grow up and become less naïve, and more comfortable in his own skin. He faces many trials, but the whole time, I was really rooting for the kid. I think I wanted to believe in him as much as he wanted to believe in himself, which was wholeheartedly, to say the least.
The style of the film was reminiscent of holiday classic A Christmas Story at times, with the young boy’s older inner voice providing a voice-over throughout the movie and his imagination conjuring up some wildly fantastical scenes. I’m sure some would say this was cheesy but hey, I liked A Christmas Story, so I liked the use of the style in this film as well.
I had never seen the little boy who played Pepper, Jakob Salvati, in anything before, and I have to say that he did a really good job. He was honest and innocent, and I couldn’t handle it when he cried. He was too convincing! Don’t worry little Jakob, your dad/best friend in the whole world isn’t REALLY going off to war! I wanted to give him a hug every time he was sad, and I wanted to be there celebrating with him every time he triumphed. The relationship he had with the dad was heartwarming, and the way he idolized him was believable.
His mom was also a great crier, so I guess it runs in the family (just kidding). Beyond that, though, she was a great actress, and played an emotional but supportive mother perfectly. She was played by Emily Watson, who you may know from Angela’s Ashes or Punch-Drunk Love.
Overall, I really enjoyed this movie. I thought that it walked a fine line between comedy and drama, with a moderate dose of tear-jerker thrown in. Pepper was adorable, the plot development was moving and sweet, and the supporting actors did a great job. I would recommend this movie if you feel like being inspired, feeling warm and fuzzy inside, and maybe crying a little if you’re a bit on the sensitive side.
You can find Little Boy on Execulink’s VOD channel (ch.100) from August 18th to December 17th, 2015.
Caitlin Feehan, Blogger & Editor
Converse have been my footwear of choice for the past 9 years, I’m convinced that all doors and sidewalks are conspiring against me, and I enjoy sticking my head out of the passenger window on long car rides.