Pepper Busbee has a lot of problems for someone his size.
Actually, his size is one of those problems: he’s the smallest kid in O’Hare, California, and the target of the bigger kids’ teasing and bullying. His only friend is his father, his partner on all the greatest imaginary adventures. But when Mr. Busbee goes to war, he goes missing in action, captured by the Japanese.
Pepper’s world is torn apart . . . but something new takes its place.
An encounter with his hero, Ben Eagle the Magician, seems to grant him the power to move objects just by wanting them to move. Father Oliver, the local priest, says that power comes from his faith, and gives him an ancient list of tasks that will make his faith stronger. Feed the hungry, visit the sick and those in prison, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, and bury the dead.
Oh, and befriend the Japanese man who just moved into town.
The impossible might be harder than Pepper thought.
Little Boy is directed by Alejandro Monteverde, produced by Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, and stars Jakob Salvati, Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson, and Kevin James. It’s a story of faith, will, and doubt, a tale of love and of hatred, all seen through the eyes of a seven-year-old boy.
And the film does feel as though it’s looking at World War II America as a child would. It’s a romanticized, nostalgic small town world, each scene practically glowing with light and color, fleshed out with gorgeous sets and costumes. At the same time, it’s not afraid to tackle heavy subjects like racism or the devastation of war. It captures the imagination of children without talking down to them.
The story reflects this dual nature well, making the audience laugh one minute and making them heartsick the next. It’s a fun movie and a joy to watch, but it also tackles real issues in a believable way and doesn’t feel the need to provide all the answers. Some of the most powerful moments had no dialogue, instead telling the story solely through the images on the screen.
See the trailer below:
Through it all, Jakob Salvati leads us from scene to scene with a performance that’s innocent yet wise, showing talent beyond his years. In fact, the entire cast hits their marks perfectly, each character feeling well-rounded and alive, with strong and weak moments and no one-note stereotypes among them. Father Oliver, for example, could easily have come across as preachy, but Wilkinson’s performance shows that as strong as his faith is, even he doesn’t quite believe that Pepper can bring his father back just by wanting him to come back. These people feel human; they feel real.
In short, Little Boy is a movie that’s strong creatively, emotionally, and spiritually. Let’s hope the faith-based movie market keeps turning out gems like this one.
As I said before, Little Boy raises some big questions, but doesn’t feel the need to hand us the answers. What causes Pepper’s miracles? Is it the magic of Ben Eagle? The power of God? Pepper’s own will? The audience is left to solve that puzzle by themselves, although the film does give them a gentle nudge toward the faith answer.
The movie is marketed as a story of a boy’s love for his father, but while that element is certainly present, it’s more a story of Pepper learning to love his enemies, namely Mr. Hashimoto. It’s a slow growth, as Pepper has to work past the hatred for Japanese the war has taught him.
The racism isn’t held back, either. We see demeaning news reels playing in theaters, and Pepper’s brother London threatens Hashimoto with a shotgun and attacks his house with a Molotov cocktail (unsuccessfully). Another man attacks Hashimoto, punching and kicking him and nearly killing him.
We see glimpses of Pepper’s father fighting in the war, and we glimpse Pepper’s imaginings of Hiroshima after the nuclear attack, complete with people turned to statues of ash. Hashimoto narrates a story in which Japanese warriors and Mongols fight and kill each other (bloodlessly).
Pepper’s mother is pursued by Dr. Fox, and he makes a leering remark about her to Pepper. Name-calling includes the derogatory terms “midget,” “Jap,” and “Nip.” Pepper calls a bully a “fat motherless pig” before smashing him in the face with a lunchbox.
“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:20
What would your life look like if you really believed this? What do you need faith in God to accomplish today?
“In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” – James 2: 17
Can doing a list of deeds make your faith stronger? Where do you see the balance between faith and works in your own life?
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” – Matthew 5:44
Are there any exceptions to this command? Who are your enemies and how can you show love to them?
Don’t miss these exciting interviews with the makers and cast of Little Boy:
- Star Jakob Salvati Talks ‘Little Boy’ & His Incredible Faith
- Exclusive Little Boy Interview: Stars Jakob Salvati & Michael Rapaport
- Director Alejandro Monteverde Brings Faith & Hope to Life with “Little Boy”
- Eduardo Verástegui Interview: ‘Little Boy’ Evokes Childlike Faith
You can find more from executive producers Downey and Burnett, including the hit movie Son of God, in our SCH Store!