With Scary Movie and White Chicks, Shawn, Marlon, and Keenen Ivory Wayans established themselves as mildly adept at super-sized ridiculousness and vulgarity. Cleverness, however, eludes them, a reality reconfirmed by Little Man, an outlandishly crude farce that crossbreeds Chuck Jones’s classic Baby Bugs Bunny with In Living Color‘s absurd “The Head Detective” to dismally predictable results. The story of a diminutive thief named Calvin who, in order to recover the stolen diamond he’s stashed with unsuspecting couple Darryl (Shawn) and Vanessa (a slumming Kerry Washington), goes undercover as a baby, the Wayans’s latest boasts a twofold comedic conceit, grafting the head of Marlon onto the body of a midget for what may be the creepiest special effect in recent memory, and then forcing said tiny CG Frankenstein to pretend to be a googoo gaga-ing infant. It’s a premise so stupendously inane that an apex of sublime stupidity often seems within reach, and yet the Wayans squander such potential by consistently opting for conventional gags, Calvin’s odyssey in preschool-land a banal series of encounters with breast feeding, rectal thermometers, and baths with enthusiastic surrogate dad Darryl. Utilizing crotch shots as its de rigueur funny fallback, the film turns out to be even more vacuous than White Chicks, with its interest in parenthood and female work-versus-career dilemmas virtually nonexistent, and its admirably blasé portrait of racial inclusiveness—via Darryl and Vanessa’s un-remarked-upon friendship with two Caucasian couples—mainly coming across as a cannily designed strategy to appeal to the widest box-office demographic possible. A gaggle of regular Wayans cohorts (David Alan Grier, Kelly Coffield, Brittany Daniel), SNL stars (Tracy Morgan, Molly Shannon), and other familiar faces (John Witherspoon, Chazz Palminteri) vigorously ham up their token screen time, while Keenen’s unimaginative, straightforward direction matches the action’s Flintstones-esque cartoonishness solely during a silhouetted scene in which Calvin, wearing full-body bunny pajamas, wields a wiffle ball bat against a lumbering thug. But where Little Man really soils itself is in its calculated attempt to achieve so-bad-it’s good status, a rarified rank that the Wayans—despite orchestrating a handful of astoundingly awful moments (face-peeing dog, I’m talking to you)—fail to realize is attainable only unintentionally.
The image boasts strong blacks and good skin tones but sketchy object detail and some minor haloing. Audio is more consistent but the dynamic range lacks kick, even when Marlon Wayans's little man causes someone extreme physical pain.
Two featurettes-one a glance at the film's production, the other a visual effects exposé-are surprisingly thorough, but "Linden's World," which devotes 11 minutes to Linden Porco, the little man who is Marlon Wayans's body double in the film, is the real deal. "Method or Madness" is a three-minute joke that doesn't fly: The cast of the film talks about Marlon as if he were an actor of miniature and ever-shrinking stature (the flea-sized actor gives an interview from an actor's chair). An equal lack of seriousness underscores 16 deleted and extended scenes as well a commentary track by the Shawn, Marlon, and Keenen Ivory Wayans. One of them believes that only desperate filmmakers probably listen to these sorts of tracks, and as ostensible punishment to these future directors, the brothers say nothing of use. Rounding out the disc is a broad selection of previews.
Really, it could have been worse-like, say, Shadowboxer's fantasy of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Mo'Nique as lovers.