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Little Boy

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Little Boy Movie Poster Image
Young boy's faith pulls heartstrings in sentimental drama.
  • PG-13
  • 2015
  • 106 minutes
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 23 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 10 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Explores the importance of faith, the power of words, and the value of getting beyond stereotypes to see people for who they are, not who they might represent. Also stresses the unconditional bond between fathers and sons and small-town community spirit.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Pepper is a sweet, loving son surrounded by positive influences: his parents -- particularly his father, who's honorable and kind; the local priest; and Mr. Hashimoto, who teaches Pepper that a person shouldn't be judged as a representative of a larger group but as an individual.


Gun violence during World War II (i.e. when the Japanese start shooting and killing their POWs toward the end of the war) and in newsreel footage. Photos and brief footage of the aftermath of an atomic bomb detonation. Hospital full of injured veterans. Bottle firebomb thrown at Hashimoto's house. Men harass, threaten, and eventually badly beat up a local Japanese man. A boy is bullied relentlessly for his size.


A doctor stares at a married woman's figure.


Racial epithets ("Jap," "yellow hide," "Buddha-head") and insults "midget," "traitor," "tiny," "idiot," etc.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Men drink while talking about the war.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Little Boy is a period drama about a smaller-than-average boy who believes that if he finishes a "magic list" of good deeds, he can miraculously bring his father back from World War II. There are some scenes of violence, including newsreel footage of WWII and sequences set during the war (including in a Japanese POW camp), plus sequences in which a group of men harass and beat up a Japanese American out of anger and prejudice. Language ranges from insults ("idiot," "midget") to WWII-era racial epithets ("Jap," "yellow hide," "Buddha head"), but the themes and messages -- from the power of family to the beauty of the father-son bond -- are positive and age appropriate for older tweens.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byFreeleo May 4, 2015

Excellent in every category of excellent!

Cannot say enough about this beautifully written, acted and filmed movie. The acting of Jakob is Oscar worthy. This is a classic. I honestly cannot see how anyo... Continue reading
Adult Written bysharon11 May 3, 2015

Awesome Family Movie!

Loved it! Meaningful! Great for the entire family! Lots of lessons to learn from this movie!
Kid, 8 years old April 24, 2015

Amazing, intense drama is violent and disturbing.

This intense and violent drama is about a young boy in the 1940s named Pepper. This movie also takes place during world war II. When Pepper's brother signs... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byBreaden Hoffmaster January 24, 2016

This is the best film I have ever seen

"Little Boy" is a story that will make you cry one minute and laugh the next, and it's a touching film full of insight and great messages. 8 year... Continue reading

What's the story?

LITTLE BOY is the story of Pepper Busbee (Jakob Salvati), a sweet kid in O'Hare, California, who's always been far tinier than his peers. But Pepper doesn't care that he's 8 years old and only 39 inches tall, because his father, James (Michael Rapaport), is his best friend, and they go on epic imaginary adventures together. When the Americans enter World War II, Pepper's older brother, London (David Henrie), tries to enlist but is medically disqualified for having flat feet, so their father goes instead. Pepper starts to believe he has miraculous powers to bring his father home and gets help from a local priest (Tom Wilkinson), who gives Pepper a list of good deeds to complete. One of the deeds is to befriend Mr. Hashimoto (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), a local Japanese American who deals daily with threats and harassment. Despite the ridicule of his classmates and the skepticism of the community, Pepper's "magic list" begins to seem like the real thing.

Is it any good?

Little Boy has general-audience appeal, particularly for families longing for some good, old-fashioned Americana. Director Alejandro Monteverde (Bella) is committed to making Catholic faith-based films, and this one is unlike many overly preachy evangelical offerings. Pepper is reminiscent of a young Owen Meany -- or Simon Birch -- a small person who's capable of big miracles through his faith. Little Pepper's love for his father, who took him to plenty of matinees about swashbuckling heroes, is the movie's driving force, and that father-son bond is undeniably beautiful.

As Pepper goes on his quest to fulfill his list (shelter the homeless, feed the hungry, etc.), he gets to know Mr. Hashimoto better and realizes there's much more to him than the angry men (including his brother) shouting racial epithets could know. The movie occasionally goes overboard with sentimentality, and young Salvati can swing from adorable to treacly, but the story is still a lovely tribute to the power of friendship, faith, and family.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Little Boy's messages. How does it depict the issues of faith and family? Why is Pepper so sure his list will bring his father home?

  • Since Pepper was himself bullied, why do you think it's easy for him to call Mr. Hashimoto names? What does Pepper learn about pre-judging others?

  • Pepper and Mr. Hashimoto have a unique friendship. What do they teach each other?

  • Compare this movie to others about kids living through war time. What do they have in common? How are they different?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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