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Little Man Tate (1991)

PG  |   |  Drama  |  1 November 1991 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.6/10 from 10,863 users  
Reviews: 36 user | 24 critic

Dede is a sole parent trying to bring up her son Fred. When it is discovered that Fred is a genius, she is determined to ensure that Fred has all the opportunities that he needs, and that ... See full summary »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Garth Emmerick (as David Pierce)
Alex Lee ...
Matt Montini
Nathan Lee ...
Matt's Teammate
Miss Nimvel
Danitra Vance ...
Clinic Doctor
Richard Fredette ...
Winston F. Buckner
Grierson Institute Teacher


Dede is a sole parent trying to bring up her son Fred. When it is discovered that Fred is a genius, she is determined to ensure that Fred has all the opportunities that he needs, and that he is not taken advantage of by people who forget that his extremely powerful intellect is harboured in the body and emotions of a child. Written by Murray Chapman <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


It's not what he knows. It's what he understands.




PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

1 November 1991 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Le petit homme  »

Box Office


$10,000,000 (estimated)


$25,010,896 (USA)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Jodie Foster mentions that Adam Hann-Byrd was terrifically allergic to horses and had to take something like Benadryl in order to be around them during filming, but that made him sleepy. See more »


Fred's backpack strap is down on his elbow when he's talking with Eddie in a longer shot (76:42-76:55), but is up on his shoulder in the immediately preceding and following close-ups of Fred. See more »


[first lines]
Fred Tate: It's funny, cause I *think* I can even remember being born. For the first two weeks of my life I didn't even have a name. Dede couldn't make up her mind. She finally decided on Fred. She said that she had never heard of a little kid named Fred before.
See more »


Referenced in 2 Broke Girls: And the Group Head (2013) See more »


Mozart's String Quartet No 21, D Major, KV575
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (as Mozart)
Performed by Alban Berg Quartett
Courtesy of Teldec Classics International GmbH
By Arrangement with Warner Special Products
See more »

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User Reviews

Engaging insight into the world of exceptionally gifted children
6 May 2006 | by (Dundee, Scotland) – See all my reviews

Through the eyes of a exceptionally gifted child of seven, 'Little Man Tate' delivers a riveting insight of the loneliness, maturity, isolation and brilliance of what it is to be highly prodigious yet very young and how imperative it is to achieve a balance when educating and raising such children.

Fred (Adam Hann-Byrd) is a very special little boy. He is able to play complicated musical pieces, pen deep and meaningful poems, calculate complex mathematical problems at an age when his classmates are still learning to tie their shoes and mastering their alphabet. He's a child old before his time, capable of thoughts far beyond the average adult's understanding, but at the core of it all, he is still just a seven-year-old who wants to fit in at school and have friends. His mother Dede, played by Jodie Foster, determines the best way to raise her beloved son is to treat him like any other child to the extent that she never really acknowledges his gifts, whereas Jane Grierson (Dianne Wiest) is on the other end of the scale as a psychologist whose speciality is gifted children. Jane takes an interest in Fred, believing his intelligence must be nurtured even if it means plonking a tot of seven into a university full of young adults.

Jodie Foster and Dianne Wiest deliver strong, solid performances as two women who both love this child and just want what is best for him, even if their approaches are very different. However, it is Adam Hann-Byrd who steals the show as the lead character of Fred. He depicts the brilliance of the character as well as his awkwardness in dealing with both 'normal' contemporaries and fellow gifted children. He is wonderful in showing how Fred is just a kid who wants to be liked, and how he desperately needs the adults around him to provide him a balance between being treated like the seven-year-old he is while allowing his towering intellect to thrive.

This film takes us into the heart of what it is to be a child prodigy and how it can be both a gift and a curse. We see Fred surpassing his adult classmates in his university course yet he struggles to interact with peers his own age who are of average intelligence. Through him, it is easy to see that being perceived as 'normal' can be the greatest gift of all. It also highlights the abysmal state of the state education system in teaching such children.

I really recommend this film as it delivers this fascinating story in a manner that is bittersweet, touching and, at times, humorous. The characters are all interesting and likable and you can't help but feel for Fred's joys and woes.

14 of 17 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Terrible Yoda101382
Adam Hann-Byrd was ugly in this film kedem524
What is the point? thirsch-2
Fred's nickname for his mother TheLastUnicorn
The music he plays in the piano on the interview whith Jane Grierson??? vovosafalda
Song eddy is playing Gunfighter2009
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