Little Big Men is the chronicle of an event I knew nothing about. After seeing the movie, I now know something about it, but really still don’t care particularly. The Little League World Series is staggeringly irrelevant at this point. Perhaps it was a bigger deal then. The documentary certainly behaves like it was a big deal, and that many sports fans will remember this. A team from Washington beats the big bad Taiwanese, which unites America behind a winner and blah blah they worked hard blah blah underdog blah blah same old storyline, just this time with 12 year olds.
The most compelling storyline in the movie is definitely the story of the star of the team, Cody Webster. Webster was an early maturer, towering over the other kids his age, and gifted athletically. To the credit of the documentary, it goes in depth into the experiences that Cody went through, both during and after the Series. The movie puts it in terms of Webster’s life peaking before puberty, and although that may be true athletically, you don’t really get that sense from Webster himself.
Webster did go through a ton of persecution, which was explained well without being salacious or voyeuristic. It is somewhat obvious, as Webster became, at least to some degree, a national figure. The other kids (and even some of the adults) were jealous of Webster, and tormented him a lot. Thankfully, now, almost 20 years later, Webster has put that behind him. Maturing into an adult has physically changed him enough to become unrecognizable, and time has taken most of the remaining pressure away.
But too much time is spent away from Webster’s story, in the tropes of sports stories. Underdogs make good through hard work and determination. This story, particularly in sports film, is told over and over and over again. One of the best things about this series is that it has the courage to examine the failures of sport, the eccentricities and the dramas that can tear at the social fabric. This documentary adheres too much to stereotype to examine those issues in depth, and hence comes across as boring.