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Little Manhattan Reviews

First-time feature filmmaker Mark Levin (producer/writer of TV's The Wonder Years) and his screenwriter wife, Jennifer Flackett, joined forces for this sweetly sentimental story of young love. Extensively narrated by young star Josh Hutcherson, it's geared to adult sensibilities but entirely suitable for children as young as the actors. Who doesn't remember their first crush, first kiss or, more painfully, that first devastating heartbreak? Manhattan fifth-grader Gabe (Hutcherson) is still at the "girls have cooties" stage of preadolescence when he's paired with classmate Rosemary Telesco (Charlie Ray), whom he's known since kindergarten, in an afterschool martial-arts class. Gabe develops a world-class crush — and who wouldn't? According to a classroom survey, Rosemary is the third-prettiest girl in the whole school. But admiring the new and improved Rosemary from afar is one thing; scoring an actual date involves planning and nerve. Gabe gets decidedly mixed messages about romance and commitment from his soon-to-be divorced parents (the perfectly paired Cynthia Nixon and Bradley Whitford), who've already started dating other people while remaining under the same roof until the papers come through. Confined by parental order to a nine-block radius of his Upper West Side apartment, Gabe gets bold one summer afternoon and, after tracking down Rosemary's address by calling every "Telesco" in the New York City phone book, ventures into unknown territory: Central Park West. Gabe parks his scooter on the sidewalk and practically does a cartwheel when, to his surprise, Rosemary actually comes out and talks to him. The pint-size lovebirds bond over karate practice and shared ice-cream cones in the park as the summer days race past. And then, just as Gabe is well and truly hooked, Rosemary utters the five words that have ended more summer romances than overprotective fathers: "I'm going away to camp." Not only is Rosemary leaving Manhattan, she's leaving for six weeks — an eternity. Crushed, Gabe struggles to pick up the pieces and move on, rationalizing that there are more fish in the fifth-grade sea. Reliving the roller-coaster ride of young love from the point of view of these phenomenal young actors offers a humorous escape from the adult world, where the little things in relationships are often taken for granted.