With its equal parts tasteless and hilarious assault on the hypocrisy of Hamptons high society, the Wayans brothers’ white-faced farce White Chicks was the most pleasurably guilty attraction of the summer 2004 movie season. On paper, the new Wayans caper, about a diminutive jewel thief (Marlon Wayans) masquerading as a newborn baby, sounds like a suitably irreverent follow-up. But the surprise of Little Man is that it turns out to be the last thing you’d expect (or want) from the brothers: a bid for respectability. Well, maybe respectability is too strong a term for a movie rife with dick jokes, hits to the groin and a parade of the dumbest white people this side of a blaxploitation flick. There’s no question, though, that the Wayanses have dialed down the outrageousness to nearly sub-PG-13 levels, with the movie’s best gag (involving the “baby”?’s sexual prowess) taking place entirely offscreen. The rest of the time, we’re subjected to some sub-Sopranos antics about a mobster (Chazz Palminteri, slumming) who wants Wayans’ head on a plate and a series of missed comic opportunities involving the childless couple (Shawn Wayans and Kerry Washington) who unsuspectingly take the thief into their home. The sight of a pint-sized Wayans — made possible by elaborate computer effects that graft the actor’s face onto the body of a two-and-a-half-foot-tall child actor — is indeed a hoot, but having accomplished that feat, the movie (directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans, who co-wrote the script with Shawn and Marlon) quickly runs dry of ideas. If only In Living Color were still on the air to serve up the inevitable Little Man parody: Now that would be worth the price of admission. (Citywide)
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