Little Manhattan (2005)

18 Apr

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Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

As “Little Manhattan” opens, we’re reminded of how it was back when we were little kids when it came to boys and girls. Before we even started school, we got along okay. But then, after the first few years of grade school, boys and girls lived in a universe separated of each other. Also, it was feared that if a girl touched a boy, it would lead to “cooties.” But as you get a little older, you get a little wiser, as boys start to see girls in a different way.

Deny all you want, but that’s how it was back when we were all little and cute and not too bright. “Little Manhattan” reminds us of how it was, guided by a narration from the film’s main character—a ten-year-old kid named Gabe who lives in Manhattan and has fallen in love for the first time in his life.

Gabe (Josh Hutcherson) is a good kid who confused about love at first. His parents are going through a divorce and he doesn’t understand how it all works. With basketball with his friends and football with his dad, he doesn’t understand girls yet. Then, he asks his dad if he can take karate class. When he starts taking that class, he is surprised when his sparring partner is the pretty eleven-year-old Rosemary Telesco (Charlie Ray). After a few “spars” together, they start to become friends. This is unusual to Gabe, and there’s a sweet scene set in a clothing store, where Rosemary tries on a dress with Gabe accompanying her; Gabe wonders why he is looking at her as if she were the most beautiful thing in the world.

To Gabe’s surprise, he and Rosemary spend more time together and he becomes very interested in her. As the movie progresses their relationship, Gabe questions what is happening to him and why he is falling in love with Rosemary. But when things go great, Gabe learns that Rosemary is leaving for summer camp and won’t be back until the end of summer. Gabe takes the news a bit too far and almost ruins their relationship from being so frustrated.

“Cute” would be the best way to describe “Little Manhattan”—actually, the film barely gets away with being so cute. But it strangely works. The two child actors are very good. Josh Hutcherson has enough credibility and energy to carry this movie successfully. There is another sweet scene with Gabe and Rosemary on a date to a fancy party with Rosemary’s parents. Gabe gets the nerve to hold Rosemary’s hand and through his narration, he’s afraid that his hand is too sweaty and she’s disgusted. There is a lot of the kid’s narration through about 60-70% of “Little Manhattan,” and it works. Charlie Ray is quite good as Rosemary. She plays the character as a smart-for-her-age eleven-year-old girl. She has an effective scene in which Gabe finally tells her he loves her and she is confused. She isn’t quite sure what love is. These two young actors are forced to carry the movie and they do it well.

“Little Manhattan” is a sweet and smart family treasure. After a few dumb family movies that are supposed to be truthful, this one hits the nail right on the head. This movie captures the memories of falling in love for the first time, and captures the true mentality of falling in puppy love. It also has a harsh but truthful subplot in which Gabe copes with his parents’ oncoming divorce, which constantly has Gabe questioning the true meaning of “love.” And the scenes with Gabe and Rosemary together are sweet, and the actors share convincing chemistry together. “Little Manhattan” is a sweet story about young love with two appealing leads and an enlightening view on love.

NOTE: Now, I have to admit—I had my doubts during the first shots of the movie, which show a lot of vomit as a symptom of “cooties.” But don’t run away from those first shots—stay a while so the movie can get to its story.

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