Netflixable? A music-infused rom-com from South Africa, “Little Big Mouth”

“Little Big Mouth” is a fizzy little romantic comedy — aimed at kids — about a problem-drinker guitarist falling for an ex-model single mom, and the efforts of her little boy and his problem-gambler grandad to put a stop to it.

The subject matter sounds edgier than it is, which is a relief — considering the movie’s slapstick quality. So yes, there’s a “funny drunk” moment or three that would give some parents pause. But mainly this is about a child pranking mom’s new suitor with bottled mosquitoes, glue in the shampoo and a scorpion down his shorts.

Well, OK. Sure. “Don’t try ANY of this at home” is kind of a given.

Naymaps Maphalal is Ziya, a guitarist with a wedding band when we meet him. He has to assure his bandmates that he’s “not gonna get drunk again,” because that’s happened before. Insisting “that’s a thing of the past” doesn’t mean he won’t ruin another gig for them.

But this little boy (Brady Hofmeyr) is REALLY into Ziya’s drunken shredding guitar solo, “ninja dancing” to it while his mother is distracted. The kids yells out “AXL!” Because he doesn’t realize SLASH was the guitarist for Guns’n Roses.

And the kid’s mom Mel (Amanda Du-Pont of “Shadow”) is f-i-n-e. He’s just too drunk and too busy stage-diving to make a decent impression.

Stumbling into them later, after he’s been kicked out of the band, his flat (which he shared with the band), is fortuitous. Because Siya hasn’t been able to book a gig or even find a place to sleep.

He makes a lousy first impression on adults — especially Mel’s grouchy Dad (James Borthwick), who calls him a “piece of rubbish” and even a “skolly.” Dad’s old enough, white enough and old fashioned enough to have a slur at the ready to describe this aimless musical vagabond.

Dad’s overreaction to Siya’s attentions include pulling a gun. Mel’s counter-reaction is to invite the guy to dinner, be a little charmed, and later to allow the homeless guy to move into a guest apartment out back.

She’s no sooner said “Don’t let me down” than we start to wonder how quickly Siya will. With Luke reacting badly to “Axl” getting Mom’s attention, and with grandpa’s encouragement, let the pranks begin.

The sight gags here include the drunk scenes, squatting in the kid’s “Wendy House” (playhouse), dropping a gun which goes off, the scorpion down the pants and the like.

None of them pay off with big laughs.

The musical scenes, which suggest that’s the path towards allegorical harmony, work. And the leads are pleasant enough, if not a barrel of laughs.

A bit of business with the not-quite-racist grandpa and Siya swapping fanboy references to American blues guitarists, and then swapping licks on guitars, is a nice way to go. The film’s racial politics are not quite post-racial, but Mel is the product of a “mixed” marriage, even if “my Dad is socially crippled.”

Not much comes from all this that anybody over the age of 6 wouldn’t see from a mile off. “Little Big Mouth” isn’t sassy or silly enough to appeal to kids, or adults either for that matter. But this “Around the World With Netflix” rom-com shows the post-Apartheid/post-Mandela state in a flattering light, if a not particularly funny one.

Rating: TV-14, alcohol abuse, adult situations, mild profanity

Cast:  NayMaps Maphalala, Amanda du-Pont, James Borthwick, Brady Hofmeyr and Charlie Bouguenon

Credits: Directed by Gray Hofmeyr and Ziggy Hofmeyr, scripted by Gray Hofmeyr, Ziggy Hofmeyr and Louw Ventor. A Netflix release.

Running time: 1:35

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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