Little Manhattan
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Mark Levin
scr Jennifer Flackett
with Josh Hutcherson, Charlie Ray, Bradley Whitford, Cynthia Nixon, Willie Garson, Josh Pais, Tonye Patano, Nick Cubbler, John Dossett, Talia Balsam, Mike Chat, Loston Harris
release US 30.Sep.05, UK 7.Jul.06
05/US Regency 1h30

Young love: Hutcherson and Ray

whitford nixon garson

Little Manhattan Exactly as the title suggests, this is a child's eye variation on a Woody Allen New York romance. It's nicely well made, although it'll probably only appeal to young girls.

Ten-year-old Gabe (Hutcherson) is blissfully happy in his boys-hate-girls culture, hanging out with his friends, exploring his Central Park neighbourhood and avoiding cooties at all costs. Then he becomes consumed with unwanted feelings for a friend from kindergarten, Rosemary (Ray), who's now his karate-class sparring partner. Gabe has another reason not to want to fall in love: his parents (Whitford and Nixon) are going through a particularly rough separation.

This is a bright, clever film that astutely captures the feelings of childhood--obsessions, insecurities, growing up. Director Levin inventively portrays this world of boys versus girls with amusing, surreal touches. This battle of the sexes extends, of course, to warring parents who are still cohabiting their apartment while living completely separate lives (up to labelling their own food in the fridge). And Gabe's internal monologue is witty and insightful, although it barely pauses for breath from start to finish.

The story includes virtually every standard story element from adult rom-coms, but applied to children. It's sharply done, and superbly performed by Hutcherson and Ray, with a terrific sense of the Manhattan setting. Although a cliché is a cliché, even if it's got a youthful twist. At least the first-love theme adds a level of discovery. Poor Gabe has no idea what's happening to him; it's all new, both the joy and the agony of love. And of course, no one around him notices what he's going through.

It's a perfectly formed little love story, although the filmmakers can't resist dipping heavily into gooey sentimentality and some corny plotting. There's also a rather dodgy crying scene that doesn't really work--both overwrought and unconvincing. That said, the film is extremely sweet, complete with sappy songs and several moments that make you go, "Awww!" Who it's made for is a completely different question, because you really can't imagine anyone besides an under-10 girl (or a film critic) sitting through it.

cert PG themes, some language 19.May.06

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Little Manhattan Mia, philippines: 5/5 "I love this film cause I can barely understand it cause I am a 12-yr-old girl who likes this film. so i'm saying that for me this is the best movie. so I realy am thankful that someone made and wrote this story about two children that are below 10 yrs old." (25.Nov.07)
© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall