Little Man

There’s a difference between being nitpicky and finding genuine faults in something. For example, pointing out that Darth Vader is about a foot taller than Anakin Skywalker is nitpicky. Saying that “Little Man” is a stupid, unfunny abortion of a film is noting a genuine fault.

The Wayans family’s latest dim-witted fart comedy is even worse than its last one, which was called “White Chicks” and was about two black men who unconvincingly disguise themselves as white women. “Little Man” has an even less tenable premise: An extremely short crook disguises himself as a baby in order to infiltrate a suburban home where a diamond is hidden.

You may recall the exact same plot being used in the 1954 Bugs Bunny short “Baby Buggy Bunny.” I note two major differences: That film was a cartoon, and it was only seven minutes long. You accept a lot of unlikelihoods and flat-out impossibilities in a cartoon, and you can buy ANYTHING for a few minutes. But for an hour and a half? Acted out by real people? That’s a tall order.

“Little Man” (directed, as usual, by Keenen Ivory Wayans and written by him and his brothers Marlon and Shawn) fails on every level, first and foremost because everything that occurs in it is one of the following:

a) Illogical.
b) Impossible.
c) Contrary to what a real person would do in the situation.
d) All of the above.

Just watching the film’s trailer, one spots about 11 plot holes. They are not resolved in the film itself. On the contrary, they are multiplied.

I’ll run it down for you: An ex-con named Calvin (Marlon Wayans), who stands about 3 feet tall (it’s Wayans’ head superimposed on the body of a midget in some scenes, on a toddler in others), steals a diamond with his accomplice, a thug named Percy (Tracy Morgan). With the cops on his tail, Calvin drops the ice into a woman’s purse in a convenience store, then follows her home so he can retrieve it. He dresses up as an abandoned baby, leaves himself on the woman’s doorstep, and spends several days being cared for by the woman, named Vanessa (Kerry Washington), and her husband Darryl (Shawn Wayans).

Almost immediately, there is a problem. No one at the crime scene saw Calvin, as he was hidden in Percy’s duffel bag the entire time. The cops are looking for someone matching Percy’s description. Calvin could walk down the street with the diamond in his pocket and not be suspected of anything. He has no need to hide the diamond anywhere, let alone someplace stupid like a stranger’s purse. (You’re a career criminal and THAT’S your go-to maneuver when evasive action is called for?)

And why is it necessary to LIVE in the house for a weekend to get the diamond back? Why not just burglarize the place in the middle of the night? And why would the diamond remain in the woman’s purse? The rock is HUGE, and it’s Vanessa’s everyday-use purse. Surely she would notice it.

And if a baby showed up on your doorstep, wouldn’t you call the police? Vanessa and Darryl consider it, but the “baby” “cries” at the mention of the word “police.” So they keep him instead. I’m sorry, movie, but that is unacceptable.

And then you consider the major problem: CALVIN LOOKS NOTHING LIKE A BABY. He is approximately the same height as a particularly tall toddler, yes. But he has all his teeth. He has facial hair, which he shaves off for the mission but which surely would grow back over the course of the weekend. (He can never get away from his foster parents long enough to make off with the diamond, but somehow he’s finding time to shave every morning?) He has the face of a full-grown man. When changing his diaper, the adults marvel at his manly genitalia. (I hate to ask, but did he shave down there, too?) He has a tattoo. Everything about him suggests he is an adult — yet because he’s short and dressed like a baby, they figure he must be a baby.

Well guess what, morons. I can put a sweater on my dog, but that doesn’t make him Cliff Huxtable.

And then there’s the way Calvin behaves, i.e., not at all babylike. I’ve noticed this phenomenon often in bad comedies about people working undercover: They never try very hard to fit in. Whereas a real person would do his utmost to play the part accurately, people in movies keep acting like themselves. I guess the juxtaposition is supposed to be funny: “Look, that cop is posing as a Korean shop-owner right now, but he keeps acting like Martin Lawrence!” But it doesn’t make any sense.

As a baby, Calvin leers, ogles and paws at women, Marlon Wayans mugging in a most unseemly and embarrassing fashion. He gives a hot friend of Vanessa’s a tongue kiss. He puts the moves on Vanessa herself, in fact, and it is implied he has sex with her without Darryl’s knowledge. And still, no one suspects anything is amiss.

It is clear that Vanessa and Darryl — and perhaps also the Wayanses — have never encountered actual children before. I say this because Baby Calvin is presumably young enough to require breast-feeding and diaper-changing, and not to be expected to speak, yet is also presumed old enough to have all his teeth and to play touch football with the boys in the backyard.

Darryl decides to throw a birthday party for Baby Calvin, just for fun. He decides this on a Saturday night. Sunday afternoon, the yard has an inflatable castle, a hired dinosaur-costumed entertainer, and a couple dozen kids and their parents. It is the most lavish, expensive and carefully planned impromptu party in movie history.

(By the way, that costumed entertainer is played by Rob Schneider. Leave it to the Wayans Brothers to find a way to make an awful movie even worse.)

The police figure out the diamond thief was probably Calvin, so they alert the news media. Vanessa’s grumpy old father (John Witherspoon) recognizes the “WANTED” posters, yet rather than calling the police to tell them a dangerous crook is posing as a baby in his daughter’s house, he confronts Calvin himself.

Later, when the jig is up, Calvin hands the diamond over to a cop and yet the cop doesn’t realize who Calvin is. This must be the officer’s thought process: “Hey, it’s that diamond that was stolen by that really short criminal! The one whose mug shot I’ve been seeing at the precinct the last couple days! The one who looks just like the baby who just handed the diamond to me! Thanks, baby! Coochie-coochie-coo!”

In sum, then, here is the problem: Every single character in this movie is stupid. Dumb characters can be funny, of course, but only when their dumbness is acknowledged — think “Dumb & Dumber,” “Tommy Boy,” etc. If the movie doesn’t KNOW its characters are stupid, there’s no humor in it. There is instead deep frustration and dissatisfaction, irritation at having to endure the foolish behavior of people who, if they had a lick of sense, would act to prevent all this nonsense from happening.

You might be thinking: Eric, chill out. You’re over-thinking it. Why must you look for reasons not to laugh at this movie?

But that’s not how it works. I don’t look for reasons not to laugh; my not laughing makes me look for the reasons why. I think: Why am I not laughing? What is it about the movie’s premise or execution that has prevented it from being funny?

Let me leave you with an example of the razor-sharp verbal comedy the Wayanses have assembled. It is a conversation between Vanessa’s old dad and someone else:

SOMEONE ELSE: You should be castrated!
OLD DAD: What?! There’s nothing wrong with my bowel movements! I go two, three times a day!

Get it? Because he confused “castrated” with “constipated.” GET IT?!! Please kill me.

F (1 hr., 30 min.; PG-13, scattered profanity, lots of sexual innuendo, several bits of gross-out humor, gratuitous Rob Schneider.)