Little Manhattan

Little Manhattan


Reviewed by: Paul Griffiths

Yes, it's another romantic comedy set among the well-heeled sidewalks of New York, but let's keep a degree of open-mindedness here. It doesn't necessarily mean we're going to get another Along Came Polly (never again!).

They hop the pond thick and fast, but rom-coms from the Big Apple come from their own orchard. Woody Allen set the bar high in the 70s with his delightful eponymous paean Manhattan. Cher had passionate pasta in 1987's Moonstruck and 10 years later Jack Nicholson beguiled and infuriated in As Good As It Gets. All these prove that for every J-Lo and Fiennes debacle there are delights to be enjoyed.

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So what new twist does this latest offering, Little Manhattan, bring to the sub-genre? The clue is in the title - here the romantic leads are 11-year-old kids.

Bile rising, spleen surging, must give kicking. What's happening? My powers fading, vitriol ebbing? This cinematic kryptonite is sapping Super Cynic's vital forces!

As icky as the premise might sound, it's actually quite good fun. Kicking off with a fine one-two of gags, inventive credits and intelligently paced laughs, Little Manhattan thankfully has a deliberate game plan. This is a PG with prepubescent leads, but it's really aimed at the parents.

Young Josh Hutcherson's Gabe may be discovering der Liebe with his old kindergarten friend Rosemary (Charlie Ray) but it's his parents' slow divorce that provides his fledgling fervour with emotional and knowing adult context. His first love clich├ęs are so universally recognisable for all grown ups that you can't help but feel warm nostalgia and compare it to the adults' weathered relationship. Although it's more manufactured than their Central Park hot dogs, the conceit's dedication does just about cut the mustard.

Contending with first dates and sweaty hand-holding, Gabe engagingly ticks the boxes while his voice-over holds things together. With his insightful wisdom the film reveals its heritage to be not in NY's cinematic classics, but in TV's The Wonder Years. Fans of the series' nostalgic tone and episodic life-lessons will know just what to expect. It's the film the series could have been and Little Manhattan quite consciously continues the tradition.

Small screen connections continue with The West Wing's Bradley Whitford and Sex and the City's Cynthia Nixon playing Gabe's folks. They both turn in solid unhistrionic performances, safe in the knowledge that, although Hutcherson gets more celluloid, actually this is all about them.

Reviewed on: 18 Jul 2006
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Little Manhattan packshot
The spirit of The Wonder Years lives on in another New York rom-com.
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Director: Mark Levin

Writer: Jennifer Flackett

Starring: John Hutcherson, Charlie Ray, Bradley Whitford, Cynthia Nixon, Willie Carson

Year: 2005

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: USA


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