Most Hollywood rom-coms approach amour with the wit and insight of a stammering, sweaty-palmed preadolescent; this one actually stars a pair of them. Realized by two of the screenwriters responsible for last year's syrupy snog-fest Wimbledon, Little Manhattan tracks the nascent longing of Upper West Side 11-year-old Gabe (Josh Hutcherson) for his classmate Rosemary (Charlie Ray). The lad's view of romance has been diminished by his parents' (Cynthia Nixon and Bradley Whitford) interminable divorce, so the courtship is spun as a life lesson more suitable for delusional grown-ups (i.e., "love never dies"). The story moves briskly and the leads generally behave like kids instead of mutant middle-agers, but Little Manhattan's hermetic depiction of New York Citywhere nonwhites are either sages or jackassesis risible; suffice it to say that a trip to the "edgy" West Village is cause for a parental freakout. Who is this movie's target audience, anyway? Preteens will be bored stupid, while adults are unlikely to want to revisit puppy love in such grueling detail. The lingering, soft-focus, slo-mo shots of Rosemary that punctuate the action suggest a constituency I'd rather not contemplate.
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