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Title: Little Boy

Movie: :4stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :4.5stars:
Extras: :1.5stars:

HTS Overall Score:82

I didn’t know until AFTER I had watching “Little Boy” that the movie was created as a faith based movie, and executive produced by Roma Downey and Mark Burnett (the Bible miniseries). Had I not found out by word of mouth I wouldn’t have guessed it. The production values are infinitely higher than their usual fare and the religious overtones are heavily downplayed. I’ve seen extremely polarizing reviews, half of which lambast it as “just another faith” movie, while the other side loves it for the simplicity of seeing through the eyes of a child. I for one, fall in the latter category, as I didn’t think there were any overt religious overtones. The message of the story SEEMS, at first glance, to be about the faith of a mustard seed, but my personal take on the theme of the movie was that we were seeing through the eyes of a young child. The ecstatic eyes full of hope, magic and faith that we all had at one time or another. The ridiculous happens, the realism is not always perfectly aligned with our adult views, but if you watch closely, everything lines up if you’re watching through the eyes of a little boy.

Told through the narration of Pepper Busbee as an older man, we learn the tale of how is life was altered the day his father, James Busbee (Michael Rapaport) went off to fight in World War II. Pepper was the pride and joy of his father’s eye. From the first time he set eyes on him, James Busbee was in love. When Pepper (Jakob Salvati) was barely 6 years old James had to leave to go to war, in place of his other son, London (David Henrie) who had flat feet. Months into the battle, James is missing in action, leaving the entire family to fend for themselves. London becomes bitter and angry, blaming everyone for his mistakes as well as the Japanese (in general) for taking his father from him. Mrs. Busbee (Emily Watson) is more hopeful, but hope can only hold out so long. Pepper is the last of them, but not the least of them. Firmly believing his father is still alive, he hopes, he prays, he begs with all his might that his father might come home. Getting into a little too much trouble, thanks to his older brother’s hatred of all things Japanese, Pepper comes into contact with Father Oliver (Tom Wilkinson), a priest who decides to help the young boy, by playing a dangerous game of faith.

At first it’s only a mild game, but Father Oliver convinces the young boy to make restitution to the old Japanese man that London assaulted to begin this whole situation (played by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) that he must follow the basic tenants of the “works of mercy” with one small inclusion… he must make friends with the very same enemy that he and his brother humiliated. Neither Mr. Hashimoto (Tagawa), nor Pepper have any real intention of being friends, but with the intense desire to have enough faith to move mountains (and subsequently bring his father home), Pepper is not a kid to brushed off lightly. Inserting himself into the old man’s life, he tackles the indomitable task with a childlike innocence and intensity. The two opposites attract, as do many things in life, and soon an odd bond is formed between Hashimoto and the boy. Hashimoto doesn’t believe a word of father Oliver’s faith can move mountains speech, and is even worried that the boy will fall OUT of faith once he realizes that his father is never coming home.

“Little Boy” is not a perfect film, as it has a few cheap and cheesy moments to the film, but overall it knows exactly what it is. A predictable film that uses just enough unpredictability and a fantastic ability to know just what strings need to be pulled in just the proper order to elicit the desired response in the audience. Some might argue that the whole “faith can move a mountain” is a bit heavy handed, but I honestly don’t believe that’s the message of the story. Or at the very least, the message to be gleaned. It’s there, and it’s so over the top that I don’t think it CAN BE taken seriously. However, if you watch even ever so slightly closely at the movie you come to realize that this all through the eyes of a child. EVERYTHING, from beginning to end is take from the point of view of a young boy. A young boy who’s full of innocent, and purity and the desire to see his daddy come home. You can see the reality seep in through the cracks. Just look at the scene where you see the fate of his father in the Philippines, or the advances of Dr. Fox (played by a very toned down Kevin James), who tries to schmooze his way into the supposed Widow Busbee’s life. The rest of the movie basically us watching through the goggles of a boy who desperately wants to see his father. The excessively bright and overly sunny image contrasts with the harsh reality based moments, which shows the subtle shift in tone when you’re viewing through the eyes of a more adult oriented person in the film. Sure the plot is slightly predictable, and the end was called a mile away. Did magic bring his father back? No, of course not. Did God bring his father back? The movie doesn’t come out and say one way of the other, but that is neither here nor there and inconsequential to the real point of the movie. That is, to watch the trials and struggles of a boy who sees the world as much simpler than it really is (or maybe it’s much more complex) and his simplicity of age and maturity only allows for one thing, the belief that somehow he can get his dad back.

Being backed by Downey and Burnett, I would have excpected a much smaller budget, but the purse strings must have been opened up, because “Little Boy” looks MUCH better than their earlier works. The actors all do a good job, and despite his face on the front of the case, Michael Rapaport only is in the movie for about 15 minutes. While faces come and go, the main 4 characters are Pepper, London, Mrs. Busbee, and Hashimoto. Young Jackob as Pepper is sweet as can be, never feeling awkward at the acting, but rather feels like a REAL little boy. London is the weakest, and Mrs. Busbee is just there for wall dressing, which leaves Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa the main acting muscle. Much more toned down than his normal roles, he does a good job playing a much more serious foil to Pepper’s childish impetuousness, as well as nailing the role of aged mentor in the place of a father who’s not there. I was REALLY surprised to see Kevin James in the movie, and am immensely grateful that he really plays a very much toned down character. His over the top comedy shtick wouldn’t have worked here at all, and while he’s a sleaze ball, he does the job well enough that your skin will crawl accordingly.


Rated PG-13 for some mature thematic material and violence

Video :4.5stars:
“Little Boy” looks fantastic on Blu-ray with a highly stylized look to the color grading that gives an overly bright and sunny look to the film. The brightness has been cranked up a decent bit in most scenes, and the colors themselves have been graded with a bright and cheery yellow/orange hue that simulates the rose colored glasses that Pepper views the world through. That bright and sunny tone is so bright that it actually creates a halo of light around the characters at some points (not to be confused with the artifacting “haloing” effect). When the point of view seems to take on the eyesight of the adults, the grading shifts to a slate blue tone, and even a natural base when Hashimoto is telling the old samurai tale. Pastels and blues and browns take up most of the regular palette, but there are times with bright primaries that pop through. Look at the fight between the Samurai and Mongol with the face mask. Black levels are deep and inky, despite the cranked brightness and skin tones take on a decidedly rosy color.

Audio :4.5stars:
Being a drama I wasn’t expecting a whole lot out of the DTS-HD MA track on the disc, but it was a surprisingly dynamic experience. Dialog is crystal clear, locked up in the front channel and balanced well with the rest of the audio. There’s a wide range of sounds present in the mix, from the rattling and rumbling of the old cars, to the crashing of doors and fists cracking bone. There’s some very solid LFE in the mix, with several moments where it’s hard hitting and deeply impressive. Surrounds are nearly in constant use with some form of ambiance, with the battle scenes and the earthquake rumbling being the most impressive of the bunch. It’s a fantastic sounding mix and one that certainly surprised me considering the genre of film. Solid A grading from me.

Extras :1.5stars:

• Animated Short: Snack Attack
• Deleted Scenes
• Special Thanks To Our Little Boy Ambassadors

Overall: :4stars:

The film is not what I would call a religious film, it has some elements of faith infused in it, but it also carries elements of magic, metaphysical and allegory to the table as well, intertwining into a heartfelt and softly humorous take on a tragic situation. I love brutal war stories as well as the next guy, but the sweetness and childlike take on the whole situation is refreshing, if not a bit clichéd at times. There’s more than a few times where I see the cracks in the foundation, but the warmth and infectious belief that Pepper exudes is more than enough to plaster over them. Audio and video are simply stunning, especially for what is essentially a drama, and despite the lack of substantial extras, I have to heartily recommend the film with two thumbs up.

Additional Information:

Starring: Jakob Salvati, Emily Watson, David Henrie
Directed by: Alejandro Monteverde
Written by: Alejandro Monteverde, Pepe Portillo
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Studio: Universal
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 107 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: August 18th 2015

Buy Little Boy On Blu-ray at Amazon

Recommendation: Recommended

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