Tolerance, World War II history and faith are served up with a sticky sentimental gloss in the family film "Little Boy."
The film brings together 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, and an older Japanese man named Hashimoto (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), shunned by the Pearl Harbor-scarred residents of their small California town.
The glue is a wise priest (
Characters are either goodness personified (Emily Watson, finding a few layers as Pepper's mom) or one-dimensional bigots. The leads are just devices: Pepper is a bland kid headed only one way — toward ho-hum wholesomeness and crying close-ups — while Hashimoto is written to be a benevolent rock: patient, nonthreatening and little else. (Why a harassed hermit would patiently agree to be some needy kid's charity experiment is beyond this movie's dramatic interests.)
"Little Boy" is a lesson, shiny and obvious, but it's hardly spiritual in any meaningful sense.
MPAA rating: PG-13 for thematic material including violence.
Running time: 1 hour, 47 minutes.
Playing: Cinemark 18 & XD, L.A.; Pacific at the Grove, L.A.; TCL Chinese, Hollywood; AMC Universal Citywalk 19; AMC South Bay Galleria 16, Redondo Beach.