Movie Review: Little Boy – The Writers Seemed Afraid to Give The Movie Any Edge

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Little Boy is a limited released faith based film, set in World War II. It’s the war seen though the eyes of a 7-year-old. While the premise has promise, sticky sentimentality and on the nose messages about tolerance turned it into a failed effort.

We start out by meeting Pepper (Jakob Salvati), a wide-eyed 7-year-old boy desperate for his father (Michael Rapaport) to return home from the war in the Pacific. Pepper is the subject of bullying at school and despair at home. This all sets up a pretty bleak picture. Add in an older Japanese man named Hashimoto (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), who is treated with suspicion and is shunned by the residents of the small California town this is set in, and you have the perfect recipe for a movie with a message.

Unfortunately, problems abound. The movie seemed to be afraid to ‘go there’ with its overall theme. Instead, it sands away the rough edges in order to give a pat, simplistic view of fear during war time. As a result, it doesn’t come across as realistic. Everyone is one dimensional, from Emily Watson playing Pepper’s saintly mother, to Hashimoto playing the patient, benevolent old man.

Right now is a great time to tackle an issue like this. After all, the fear and racism most Japanese American’s dealt with during World War II is similar to the fear and racism Muslims in America are dealing with now. It’s a complex issue, which has many layers that need to be examined.

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This film takes that complex issue and turns in into a simple “everyone should be nice to everyone, all the time.” While a sticky sweet theory, it doesn’t work so well in practice. What about racial profiling? What about sleeper cells, extremism and Guantanamo Bay? After all, there were Guantanamo Bay’s all over America during World War II. They were called Japanese Internment camps. None of this is portrayed in the film. Instead, everyone is one dimensional. No one really has a good motivation. They’re either a tolerant saint or a one dimensional bigot.

The unfortunate part of this is that it could have had a strong story line. One strong part of this film is the Seven Corporal Works of Mercy. I remember those from being brought up Roman Catholic and know they can make a strong storyline in and of themselves. It’s too bad that the writers seemed afraid to give the movie any edge. It sees things in black and white. People are either good or bad. That doesn’t work when you’re tying in a religious lesson. Instead, it just comes off as an overly long Sunday school lesson.

Also, in a movie that seems kind of ‘holier than thou’ the fact that the townspeople rejoice at the bombing of Hiroshima doesn’t ring true as godly. While casualties are a part of war, I think the deaths of 166,000 civilians should be treated with a bit more sensitivity, rather than proof that god exists.

WE GAVE IT: 2.5 Stars

2.5 Stars


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Movie Review: Belle (2014)

Belle Movie PosterA Clean, Intelligent Period Piece With no Gimmicks
starsBelle is a fantastic 18-century costume drama that delves into racial roles and class lines, without being as serious or dramatic as 12 Years a Slave.

This story is based on the life story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), an illegitimate mixed race daughter of an admiral who lives in aristocratic society. Admiral Sir John Lindsay (Matthew Goode) rescues the young lady from poverty and turns her over to his family to raise. Raised by great-uncle Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson), Belle lives a privileged life, but her mixed race and illegitimate status prevent her from having the usual rights of a noblewoman. While cousin Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) is looking for someone to marry, Belle watches from the sidelines, until she meets her own revolutionary love interest. Together, they help shape Lord Mansfield’s role as Lord Chief Justice to end slavery in England.

Initially, you might be tempted to compare this to 12 Years a Slave. After all, it has a noble hero, deep observations about class and race and strongly adhered to period research. But to do that would be to ruin your appreciation of the story.

Both might be based on true stories, but the Oscar winning 12 Years a Slave took brutal, frightening risks that worked. It was a hard to watch movie that captured attention and was a sophisticated work of art.


Belle played it a bit safer than that. Character actors and history lessons are more important than the day to day life of the characters. It really can’t even be compared to 12 Years a Slave, because it didn’t take risks. It followed the history books. It paid close attention to period detail.

But it wasn’t shocking.

Belle is a good movie in itself. It’s beautiful. The actors were excellent and the movie itself was visually attractive and engaging. Dialog was well done for the time period, and it appears that the screenwriter attempted to stick as close to the actual details of the story of Dido Elizabeth Belle as possible.

This was a movie that was more about hard work than storyline. Everyone put in the full effort, making this a good enough movie to stand on its own. It doesn’t have edge, but it doesn’t really need it. Instead, it just tells a story in a compelling way without shocking the viewer.


It’s not much of a standout from other period pieces I’ve seen, but it’s not a bad effort either. Belle is worth the watch, and it introduced me to a historical individual I hadn’t heard of before.

I think it was an inspired choice to choose this character to film a movie around. It is an inspirational work without the same punch as 12 Years a Slave, but it’s still worth watching. It is an intelligent film that examines both social and racial roles in 18th century England, without making us too emotional about them. Cleanly done and intelligently filmed, this movie might not win any Oscars, but it is certainly worth the watch.  Watch the Official Trailer below:

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