GABE [V.O.]
Rosemary, if you can read my mind,
I’m eager to swap spit now.

Cooties From a Cutie

Meet ten and 3/4 year old Gabe (Josh Hutcherson). I might be wrong, but he “utters” the most number of voice-over lines in recent movie history. To be fair, thoughts are probably more telling than words spoken. So it goes without saying that “Little Manhattan” is the one of the most direct movies out there. Gabe shows us all his cards in his first gamble in the game of love.

“Okay, here’s the deal,” Gabe gives it to us straight. “If you came to hear some great New York love story, keep walkin’. You want a real love story? I’ll tell you a real one.”

Whoa – is that a threat? But to me, it was a comforting sign that the movie isn’t in the business of sugarcoating. That’s kid stuff anyway. But the film doesn’t intend to be rebellious either – that smells like teen spirit. “Little Manhattan” is a tween’s story – it’s a tale of uncertainty. Gabe is wondering about his developing feelings towards a girl named Rosemary Telesco (Charlie Ray). It’s not like she’s the prettiest girl in the class and he’s known her since they were in kindergarten. What changed? Could it be… could it be that he’s infected with girl cooties? Could it be love? Gabe is not feeling too good. Since his parents (Bradley Whitford and Cynthia Nixon) seem destined to be divorced, the boy is a naturally apprehensive about love. Such phase of confusion feels like a godforsaken eternity.

Here’s what is certain though. “Little Manhattan” is one of the treasures you might have missed out last year. It made me smile throughout the movie and that’s the highest compliment I can give. The film seems to do no wrong. Although Gabe goes through a roller coaster ride of highs and lows, those of us beyond that age are suspended in amusement. When Gabe is happy, we feel it too. When Gabe is sad, we feel a sense of relief we’re passed that age.

Josh Hutcherson in the lead role is an actor to watch. He’s got that “thinking face” down. He’s natural enough and wins major points for weeping like a baby. Charlie Ray as dream girl Rosemary is good too. Although the character seems to lack flaws, Ray plays her credible enough so it’s not noticeable. Another delight in this movie is its romanticism of New York. Gabe rides his scooter as if the city’s streets are his own playground, even if he can only roam around a little portion of Manhattan (hence, the movie title). Damn. Remember what it’s like to be at that age? The world seems so huge because you’re restricted by boundaries. I bet you that when Gabe grows up, rides the subway alone, or has a car to drive, he’d be calling Manhattan little in no time.

Grade: A

CAST
Josh Hutcherson, Charlie Ray, Bradley Whitford, Cynthia Nixon, Willie Garson, Tonye Patano, J. Kyle Manzay, and Talia Balsam
Screenplay by
Jennifer Flackett
Directed by
Mark Levin
Rated PG for mild thematic elements, language and brief action
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