Back Shelf Beauties
by Willie Waffle

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Little Manhattan

Little Manhattan is my white whale, but I achieved a goal Ahab never could, I finally landed this masterpiece, which is available on DVD this week.

The movie had a very limited release in NY last fall, and I was interested in seeing it since it stars one of my favorite actors, Bradley "Josh Liman" Whitford. It had the aura of a hidden gem, possibly an addition to my collection of Back Shelf Beauties. Sadly, I was sick the first time it was shown to critics. Then, the second screening for critics was cancelled due to the decision not to release Little Manhattan in DC. I was crushed. Many of my colleagues had seen the movie and thought it was one of the most charming films of the year. I was like the kid on the elementary school playground who didn't have the cool sneakers.

I had a third chance to see Little Manhattan last February, when the movie theater near my house, The Avalon, chose to show it as part of their special children's series that runs every Saturday morning at 10 AM. Since it was a movie about a young kid falling in love, it was scheduled to run the Saturday before Valentine's Day, but that was changed. Aaargh! The movie was delayed until March 25.

Again, I waited with breathless anticipation and invited another friend to join me at the show. Finally, I was about to see what had to be the greatest movie EVER. Alas, on March 24, I found out I had to see Ice Age: The Meltdown on the morning of March 25, and I would not be able to see Little Manhattan. It was not to be. My life would be incomplete and a hole would be present in my soul where memories of Little Manhattan were supposed to reside. Then, IT CAME OUT ON DVD APRIL 4!!!!!!!!! YEAH!!!!!!

Review Starts Here For Those Bored With My Story

Josh Hutcherson stars as Gabe - a 10-year old boy growing up in Manhattan. While life seems perfect as he jets around his neighborhood and hangs out with the guys, Gabe also has to deal with his parents', Leslie (Cynthia Nixon) and Adam (Bradley Whitford), impending divorce, which has made life around the house awkward. Just when our young man thinks he has resolved to avoid that, "terrible, ugly business," called love, and wouldn't wish that kind of pain on his worst enemy, in walks the third prettiest girl in school, Rosemary Telesco (Charlie Ray). Poor kid doesn't know what he's in for.

As he falls for the pretty little angel, will Gabe be able to win her heart? Does he have any clue how to make it happen?

Little Manhattan is the cutest, funniest, most heartbreaking and inspiring movie you will see all year. While the movie has been mislabeled as a kid's movie, writer Jennifer Flackett doesn't dumb it down in the least. She provides a witty, insightful, tender and gripping script full of amazing little monologues from Gabe as we hear every thought in his head and emotion he feels in his heart. I have read several reviews that claim this is like a Woody Allen movie (one of the good ones) if Woody was 10-years old, and I can't agree more. Flackett captures the great epic life feels like when you are 10-years old, the wonder and magic the world seems to hold before you grow jaded, and makes it feel as real as anything you have ever experienced.

Director Mark Levin makes the script come alive as we watch poor little Gabe fret over every moment, try to interpret every look and sigh, embarrass himself since he is a bundle of nerves and attempt to go for it. I felt like I was watching mini-Willie (luckily, I had some ice cream on hand for such an experience). Levin keeps the tone light, especially as we see Gabe's dreams and imagination come to life, but we also feel the intensity of the little guy's feelings and the tension and anticipation in every little moment. Levin makes Manhattan and all of New York City feel like the most magical place on earth, and uses the city as the ultimate prop in this romantic comedy.

Finally, I can't say enough about Hutcherson and Ray. The two kids have great chemistry together, excelling at the quiet moments, where they exchange glances and smiles, and the physical movements that show us how awkward and scared they are as Gabe and Rosemary encounter feelings they have never experienced. Hutcherson draws you in with his spirit, and the look of pure joy in his eyes. Then, he makes you root for Gabe because of the naked show of vulnerability running through him, just like it does with all of us. He will always be able to look back on this as a crowning achievement in his career, no matter what happens in the future.

Little Manhattan is THE movie you want to run out and rent this weekend.

4 Waffles (Out Of 4)

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