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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Little Manhattan
Little Manhattan
Fox // PG // April 4, 2006
List Price: $27.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted April 5, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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A sweet little movie that didn't get much press and only a limited theatrical release, "Little Manhattan" is a snappy "first love" story focusing on Gabe (Josh Hutcherson), who falls for karate partner Rosemary (Charlie Ray) just as his parents - Adam (Bradley Whitford) and Leslie (Cynthia Nixon) - are working out an awkward divorce settlement that has the two trying to figure out who gets control of the apartment.

Although Gabe and his friends regard girls as containing nasty cooties early in their school years (played out in a scene that's hilarious, then gross, as we see the "results" of cooties), he suddenly finds himself seeing Rosemary in a new way - that mixture of love and bumbling nervousness and uncertainty. Rosemary is "just his type", although Gabe is previously unaware that he actually had a "type."

The two break away from her nanny long enough to have a sweet stroll in Central Park, a brief period of time he considers their first date. As for Central Park, "Little Manhattan" makes stellar use of Manhattan locations, reminding me of the wonderful time I had when I last visited in 2003.

The film's performances are sweet and thoughtful, as young stars Ray and Hutcherson are likable and straightforward. Like the rest of the film, they aren't sappy or sentimental and both portray the awkwardness of young love quite well. Although the parents are sort of an afterthought, Bradford and Nixon offer enjoyable supporting efforts. Hutcherson's character has quite a bit of inner monologue and although some of it is sweet and amusing, the movie didn't need quite so much of it.

Overall, this is a smart, funny and touching little movie. Although probably not the best or most accurate way to describe the picture, while watching it I often felt like I was watching a Woody Allen (and not just the due to the NYC locations, but patches of dialogue and other elements) romantic comedy for kids. There's not a great deal to the story, but writer Jennifer Flackett and director Mark Lewin (both wrote 2004's "Wimbledon") handle the story with grace and mostly make this a magical (complete with a few imaginative visual effects moments) little big city tale.

The DVD

VIDEO: "Little Manhattan" is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 full-frame by Fox. The anamorphic widescreen presentation on the screening copy I watched isn't without a few faults, but it's mostly a first-rate effort. Sharpness and detail are usually terrific, as all but a few moments of the movie looked crisp and well-defined, with fine details often clearly visible.

The presentation did show some slight edge enhancement, but otherwise, it looked crisp and clean, with no print flaws, pixelation or other issues. Colors looked beautifully rich and well-saturated, with no smearing or other issues.

SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation certainly isn't aggressive, but it is quite pleasant, using the surrounds for occasional reinforcement of the music and light ambience. Audio quality was definitely fine, as dialogue seemed warm and crisp, never distorted. The film's perfectly picked score also sounds great, as do the ambient sounds of the city streets.

EXTRAS: Writer Jennifer Flackett and director Mark Lewin (who are married) provide an audio commentary for the feature. The track is funny and informative, as the two chat about filming in NYC on locations, the visual effects work, casting, working with the studio and other production issues. There are some pauses of silence here-and-there, but this is mostly an engaging commentary.

4 deleted scenes are offered, with optional commentary. The deleted scenes (including a little dance number) are pleasant and fun, but I didn't feel as if they were needed.

On the full-frame side, we get an interview with the writer/director, discussing the studio's fears of showing the main character riding around on a scooter without a helmet. The filmmakers disagreed, taking pictures of kids riding around NYC w/o helmets. However, they did shoot alternate takes of the main character riding around with a helmet, and they're shown here. This side also offers "From Scout to Screen" (a short featurette on location scouting in NYC), "Sheep Meadow Segment" (how sheep were inserted into a scene in Central Park) and the film's trailer.

Final Thoughts: A wonderfully charming romantic comedy that both kids and adults can enjoy, "Little Manhattan" barely got any notice when it was released theatrically, but it'll hopefully find a much bigger audience once it arrives on DVD. The DVD edition provides very good audio/video quality, along with a very nice set of supplements. Recommended.
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