Faith based stories are very popular fare on television and now producers Roma Donwey (“Touched by an Angel”) and her husband Mark Burnett (“Survivor”) are starting to roll out a series of faith based films. “Little Boy” is one of those films.
“Little Boy” is the story of just that – a little boy named Pepper (Jakob Salvati) growing up in the era of World War II. His own hero is his father (Michael Rapaport) and his life is turned upside down when his father goes off to fight in the war. Pepper goes on a mission to bring his father home, using just his belief.
“Little Boy” was co-written by Pepe Portillo and Alejandro Monteverde and is also directed by Monteverde. Although it should be noted that Monteverde’s heart is in the right place “Little Boy” misses the mark almost entirely. Faith based films are needed today; there is a demographic for films that emphasize message and leave out dirty language and nudity. But, filmmaking is still an art form.
The first thing that just crushes “Little Boy,” is the simplistic and over child-like dialogue. Yes, it is a movie about a young child. But nothing kills a movie more than poorly written dialogue. Dialogue, when done well, should have a natural rhythm to it. “Little Boy” is lacking this natural feel.
Secondly, the entire film is shot strangely. During a recent Q&A, Monteverde explained that this was done on purpose due to the fact that the actor playing Pepper was not as small as they wanted him to be. To compensate they hired taller actors and built a set that was made at a larger than normal scale to make Pepper look smaller. Even the camera angels were tilted upwards across Pepper to again, make him appear smaller.
Next, there are a lot of one-dimensional characters. As most real people have good and bad characteristics, a well developed character will demonstrate both good and bad qualities.
Furthermore, the casting of Pepper was done against the advise of his top casting agent. And his casting agent was right, this was way too large of a role or an unknown child with no acting abilities.
Lastly, the film has sequences melded together of Pepper in his daily life mixed with his father in combat scenes. Basically the concept was a bad idea altogether and the editing was even lacking the needed finesse to pull off such a feat.
Monteverde in person is a very nice person. He is very likeable and he demonstrates an earnest desire to tell stories of meaning and passion, but “Little Boy” will not go down as one of his great achievements. Monteverde told audience members at a recent Q&A that the critics are attacking his film and not giving him true criticism.
Many in Monteverde’s corner may be telling him the film is being targeted due to its subject matter. So here, laid out are the detailed criticism that Monteverde asked for to improve his filmmaking abilities.
My suggestion to Monteverde would be to pair up with a hard-hitting screenwriter, one that has been recognized for laying out a well-told story. And my last bit of advice is a simple story is better than complicating it with gimmicks (larger scale set) and/or tricks (the dual scenes of father and son). Monteverde is still a young filmmaker and I look forward to the day when his abilities have matured.
“Little Boy” is rated PG-13 for some mature thematic material and violence and has a run time of one hour and 40 minutes.