Annie J Howell's observation of racial and social interactions between a big city mixed race family and their new neighbors in an all-white liberal state is brought to the big screen by Rob Meyer who seems to have been thinking of Richard Pryor's "Moving" (1988).


Most of the elements are there, though more subtle. Gina (Melanie Lynskey) and Mack (Nelsan Ellis) uproot their geeky son Clark (Armani Jackson) from their Brooklyn neighborhood, cross country to a small town called Rome Washington. Gina is a professor and Mack is an accomplished author who is currently working on his second book.


The house they bought was bought mostly sight unseen - at least by Mack - and seems pretty decent as do the neighbors. They are greeted by the neighborhood greeters and nobody seems shocked by their interracial marriage, after all this is Liberalland Washington State.

Two pre-teenage girls - Ambrosia (Oona Laurence) and Julie (Miranda McKeon) are even smitten by Clark because the town FINALLY got a black kid! But Clark is far from what they were expecting a black kid from Brooklyn to be like, so they take it upon themselves to train him in the ways of gangsta rap and other things they associate as being black.


Gina, starts her job at the school and her new colleagues immediately give her a crash course in boozing it up and slacking off during "meetings". Gina is trying to quite smoking and doesn't really drink, so it becomes interesting in a hurry.


Meanwhile, their furniture has yet to make it there and the movers are starting to become hostile over the phone because Mack and Gina reported them. Mack needs the furnishings so he can get going on his cookbook which is behind deadline. But now he has idle time and soon gets friendly with neighbor greeter guy Tom (David Ebert) who also happens to be a druggie and erotic book writer.


Instead of the big city people having a negative effect on their rural white neighbors, the neighbors are having negative effects on them. The lid blows off when there is a huge problem with the house and Clark gets in big trouble with the two little girls when they all go just too far. But it's still not far enough to pick the film up though the irony is sustained. The commentary needed to be more biting for it to be more ironic.


The story is just too tepid, unlike Pryor's film. This is a case when more would have been much funnier. Meyer seemed afraid of going over a line that was draw too far back.


"Little Boxes" makes some humorous observations of the non-innocent nature of small town USA, however it only moderately depicts residents as corruptible buffoons.   -- GEOFF BURTON