Stars: Jakob Salvati, David Henrie, Emily Watson, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Michael Rapaport, Kevin James, Ted Levine, Ben Chaplin, Tom Wilkerson, Abraham Benrubi, Eduardo Verastegul and Winston James Francis
Director: Alejandro Gomez Monteverde
Scriptwriters: Alejandro Gomez Monteverde and Pepe Portillo
Composers: Stephan Altman and Mark Foster
Open Road Films
Rating: PG 13 (perhaps not for children under age ten)
Running Length: 100 minutes
“Little Boy” has been referred to as the name of the atom bomb used against Japan to end WWII in the Pacific. In this film, the term “Little Boy” is a teasing term used for the character of Pepper Busbee, a young boy with growth issues. Pepper is played by Jakob Salvanti, who looks like a young Chris Pine. In years to come, if the “Star Trek” movies continue and Pine opts for other roles, Jakob Salvanti may just be handy for the role of James Kirk. Just saying……..
In this story of faith, the relationship between a young boy and his father (Michael Rapaport) is examined. Though the other brother, London Busbee (David Henrie) is much older, there is no resentment about the preference. Fantasy scenes are interspersed showing the father and son being heroes and the phrase, “Can you do it?” are the words to finish an important task. It is WWII time, and Japan is the enemy, with Japanese people in America being interned in camps, released, but still taunted by townspeople, and here, by the villain, Ted Levine. This sets up several storylines that are presented, but not completely followed through. A road map may be needed. First, there is father and younger son and the boy’s complete belief in his father coming home from the war. Second, is the older brother and his hatred of anything Japanese. Third, is the mother trying to keep the family together and keeping a possible suitor (if Dad is missing) away. Fourth is the story of the lone Japanese man in town, Hashimoto (eloquently played by Cary-Hiroyaki Tagawa) and his tribulations with Pepper and London. Fifth, is the character of the magician Ben Eagle (Ben Chaplin) who seemingly provides powers to Pepper. Sixth, is the town priest (a kindly Tom Wilkinson) who has to keep the townspeople from doing harm to Hashimoto and Seventh are the adventures of Dad while away at way.
Humor is provided by Pepper and his relationships with the priest and trying to have the faith of a mustard seed in hoping Dad comes home from war. Also, Pepper’s relations with Hashimoto, which is really the heart of the film, as barriers come down and a friendship forms from loneliness to loneliness. Kevin James (“Paul Blatt”) is a surprise here, as a widower with a delinquent son, who comes courting Mrs. Busbee (blandly played by Emily Watson.) James plays a doctor who misses a home-cooked meal. David Henrie’s “London,” has been brought up on war hatred and this carries through most of his role, and even time in prison. Tom Wilkinson’s priest is kindly and tough and wise at the same time. In years past, his role would have been played by the late Spencer Tracy. But the film is carried by young Jacob Salvati and Cary-Hiroyaki Tagawa as Hashimoto as they learn to trust each other and find something to carry them through difficult times for each. Another relationship is between Pepper and Father Oliver and a list the priest gives him to follow to take hatred out of himself and this list propels the story along (help others, etc.) With no father-figure at home, the boy looks to others for guidance.
Now, as far as trust, Pepper begins to show strong powers in moving objects. The key phrase between he and his father has been, “Can you do it?” But this is only said once in the film, and then, whenever Pepper tries something, there is a great deal of grunting until he is red-faced and even then, more grunting. It almost makes the audience think, “Can I stay here through this?” I was disappointed.
“Little Boy” showcases a young talent, supported by good actors, but the script has enough relationships to support being a television mini-series. Though the star is a child, there is violence here and not for children under age ten.
Copyright 2015 Marie Asner