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Friday, 27 October 2017

Retro Review: Little Big Man (1970)

Little Big Man
1970
Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Chief Dan George, Faye Dunaway, Martin Balsam, Richard Mulligan
Genre: Comedy-Drama
U.S Box Office Gross: over $31 million

Plot: Jack Crabb, looking back from extreme old age, tells of his life being raised by Native American Indians & fighting with general Cluster





'Wham, Bam, Thank You Little Big Man'

A fable that acts as a coming-of-age Western, it turns out that in my first viewing, Little Big Man is one helluva film from Dustin Hoffman that attempts to turn the Western on its head and offering something that is a little unconventional, whilst still remaining true and faithful to its genre's roots and through its narration. 

I usually don't do period-based films, but Little Big Man was a nice surprise and it plays out much like Forrest Gump, as a movie through its narrative structure and with Jack narrating the story. Despite being billed as a comedy, there are in fact light and humourous moments, but otherwise, the film is more of a straightforward episodic Western period drama. 

Lone survivor of Little Big Horn Jack Crabb experiences at first-hand life as both as a Native American and non-Native American during the late 19th century and early 20th century, as well as fighting General Cluster, as he reminisces on & lives to tell the tale of the good and the bad that he had to endure and withstand. It is a tale of how the West was won through the eyes of a White man, who was initially adopted and later raised as a Native American.  

Little Big Man does not refer to Austin Powers's Verne Troyer or Danny DeVito, but a character in Jack who is captured and raised by Native Indians and he becomes one. Hoffman dominates as the star performer, giving it his all and whilst he has delivered amazing performances, Jack Crabb most deservedly needs to be up there alongside his more established and well-renowned character roles.  

The make-up on Dustin Hoffman as old man Jack by Dick Smith was phenomenal and is as impressive as the make-up on Robin Williams as Mrs Doubtfire. I would never have recognised that was Dustin who would be underneath all those prosthetics. If it weren't for Dustin in this movie, I would have never cared for it or given it a look and so him and his performance and the manner of the performance that he gave, made a huge amount of difference. 

The film's cinematography is spectacular and it fully captures that American West period and feel. It has funny scenes with Faye Dunaway bathing Dustin and it has characters acting and behaving differently and the camp Indian took me a little by surprise, although most, or be it the rest of the sections of Little Big Man operates as a drama. At times you will laugh and smile, other times you'd watch it with a straight face, there is a distinct quirkiness that Little Big man draws out; therefore the tone switches up with each and every scene. But they are all critical of America's history with Native Americans, whilst it also portrays the Native Indians in a positive light and it never becomes judgemental and reeks in preachiness. It's satirical in places, the story is well told - yet also effective and at times, entertaining to sit through and the battle sequences are great. 

My favourite get up of Jack's was the fetching all-Black cowboy outfit with young 32/33-year-old Dustin looking so good & with his boyish looks, but it was intriguing to see the many different faces of Jack, beginning from adolescence all the way through to evitable old age.



 


Final Verdict:

I wasn't really expecting to like this film and get into it as much as I did; period films and Western movies don't do much for me generally and I thought this would be something that I'd not enjoy. & so I was pleasantly surprised and intrigued at how Little Big Man turned out. 

This is a unique movie coming out of Dustin Hoffman's filmography that doesn't seem to get its due; quite frankly, it deserves to as it was truly watchable all the way through. This is one of those movies where that combination of comedy and humour and drama is evened out and balanced through, with a strong and engaging performance by Hoffman. Just when I thought it was Tootsie, which showed off more of his light-hearted nature, as Jack Crabb, he was great here and his character was thoroughly likeable in his first light-hearted effort. 

Little Big Man is a little complex, yet it is also a solid offering and surprisingly and unmistakably watchable.


Overall:




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