Gabe (Josh Hutcherson) is a 10-year-old kid whose life is, as he puts it, "very fulfilling," despite his parents' pending divorce. His summer days consist of basketball, video games, and hanging out with his friends. His decision to take karate is looked upon as just one more part of a life well-lived. That is until longtime schoolmate Rosemary Telesco (newcomer Charlie Ray) becomes his sparring partner.
In accordance with the boy handbook, since Rosemary is a girl, Gabe deals with her indifferently. However, as the karate lessons continue and the two spend more time together, Gabe starts to like her. After seeing her in her flower girl's outfit, his life (or at least part of his summer vacation) changes. Soon, he is milling in front of Rosemary's Upper West Side apartment building hoping to catch a glimpse of her.
Frustrated, Gabe flees from her apartment, only to nearly collide into Rosemary and her nanny. He composes himself and escorts Rosemary to Central Park (where the little playa brings his A game), beginning a two-and-a-half week introductory course on the dizzying highs and neurotic lows of relationships and an ordeal he wouldn't wish "on my worst enemy."
Little Manhattan sounds like a kid production of High Fidelity or Annie Hall, the last thing anyone needs. And while elements of those movies pop up, you never feel awkward watching, because Ray and Hutcherson act their age. Thank goodness. Any sign of show biz slickness or adult tendencies, and the movie is doomed. So, they deserve a ton of credit, as does writer Jennifer Flackett, who is mindful of her lead characters. She incorporates adult elements into her script, but maintains the innocence and wide-open possibilities of childhood. Gabe and Rosemary don't go out on dates, as much as they do play dates. But they're significant. A10-year-old doesn't just take anyone with him to Greenwich Village.
The movie screams for a sitcom treatment, complete with smart-ass quips and adorable moments to placate the masses. What's amazing is how rarely those things pop up. There's a bully, fantasy sequences, and first-person narration, but really, what kid doesn't have those things as a part of his or her life? Come to think of it, what adult doesn't? Little Manhattan is ideal for kids and adults because its adventures and realities are not only universal, they come from the heart. For Flackett and director Mark Lewin, it isn't about kids playing dress-up and talking like world-weary grown-ups. It's about knowing the right time to hold someone's hand, something kids of all ages can appreciate.
First the Roy Rogers, then the Shirley Temples.
Run time: 90 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 5th January 2006
Box Office USA: $0.4M
Box Office Worldwide: $1.1M
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Production compaines: New Regency Pictures, Epsilon Motion Pictures, Pariah, Regency Enterprises
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 76%
Fresh: 22 Rotten: 7
IMDB: 7.6 / 10
Director: Mark Lewin
Producer: Gavin Polone
Screenwriter: Jennifer Flackett
Starring: Josh Hutcherson as Gabe, Charlie Ray as Rosemary, Bradley Whitford as Adam, Cynthia Nixon as Leslie, Willie Garson as Ralph, J. Kyle Manzay as Master Coles, Josh Pais as Ronny, John Dossett as Mickey Telesco, Talia Balsam as Jackie Telesco, Jonah Meyerson as Sam, Tonye Patano as Birdie
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