A Little bit twee - but I liked it


Last updated at 13:56 07 July 2006

Little Manhattan may not be the greatest film of the year, but it's one of the cutest.

For the first ten minutes, as our ten-year-old hero Gabe (Josh Hutcherson) cries his eyes out over 11-year-old Rosemary (Charlie Ray), I feared it might be horribly twee. But the sincere performances, sharp comic observation in Jennifer Flackett's writing, and imagination of her husband/director Mark Levin's fantasy sequences - I especially liked the skyscraper which turned into a pirate ship - gradually won me over.

Viewing room

Watch the Little Manhattan trailer and our other picks of this week's films here

This is essentially a romantic comedy in the mid-period Woody Allen tradition of Annie Hall, but set among pre-teens. The tone is similar to the TV series The Wonder Years (not surprisingly, since director Levin worked on the show as producer and writer), with the boy-hero's voice-over mingling innocence and wisdom to humorous effect.

There's plenty of sharp, but affectionate, observation about the hesitancy most us feel when it comes to wooing, even if we're well over the age of ten. And it's especially touching about love across the class - or wealth - divide.

The heroine's family are indisputably rich and happily married; the hero's parents are unhappily living together, but dating separately, in an apartment that's distinctly dilapidated. "My family's on a one-way ticket to The Jerry Springer Show," moans Gabe. Many of us have been there, but not necessarily at this early an age. And that's the movie's big problem.

Most pre-teens aren't remotely interested in love, and will be bored by the picture because they won't identify with the characters. It will appeal mainly to grown-ups, but they may not appreciate it fully because it looks like a children's film, and there's something mildly off-putting about any picture that keeps shooting an 11-year-old girl in soft focus.

So I'm not sure who the audience for this very sweet little movie is supposed to be.

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