JJ's life has been miserable ever since his ill mother had to give him up. The only two good things he has are his best friend Sophia and his wonderful talent for music. Determined to know what happened to his mom, the young man escapes from his foster mother, a woman who encourages her charges to steal and bully. Following his memories, he takes shelter in Central Park. JJ becomes the new protégé of the Guardian, a homeless eccentric and self-appointed King of Central Park who promises to protect the boy and offers him the companionship of a dog called Mutt in exchange for food. Also, JJ's path crosses with Rebecca Cairn, another eccentric who lives in a brownstone overlooking the park. She takes particular interest in him, as does her estranged husband Noah Cairn who is always rescuing Rebecca when she grows depressed. JJ tries to shake off the help of these characters, thinking that his life would be better on his own. However, JJ's foster mother is looking for him, making his ...Written by
"Central Park" Misses But Young Frankie Nasso Scores
The only reason I even stumbled across this film is because one of its young stars, Carmen Moreno who plays Sofia, was one of my students this past year. I know the film had a theatrical showing in New York, but it does not appear that it was ever picked up for national theatrical distribution. After finally seeing the film, this is not surprising; it's a film that cannot quite make up its mind what it wants to be JJ (Frankie Nasso) lives with an abusive foster mother Mrs. Ardis (Cathy Moriarty) in present day Staten Island, NY. He dreams of finding the mother who left him, and one day he leaves Staten Island for Manhattan with hopes of finding her. In a parallel story we meet Rebecca (Kathleen Turner) and Noah (Danny Aiello) as a well-to-do Manhattan couple whose marriage is inexplicably crumbling. In JJ's journey to find his mother he also encounters The Guardian (Harvey Keitel) an eccentric New York "character" who lives under a bridge in Central Park. Along the way we also discover that JJ is a musical prodigy who can play any melody he hears, well, not only play it, but turn it into a full blown musical piece. Once JJ and Rebecca meet (she has a grand piano that nobody has played for a long time) the film heads toward its inevitable conclusion. The producers claim that "Prince of Central Park" is a modern day retelling of Huck Finn. Okay . . . There are also borrowed plot elements from such diverse sources as "Oliver Twist" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?". The problem is these exemplary literary sources don't really mix very well. Consequently, the film has a patchwork feel, the sum of the parts don't really equal an engaging whole. Still, there are pleasures to be had here. Frankie Nasso gives an engaging performance as JJ. There is an inherent sweetness to his performance which goes a long way toward helping the audience get by some of the gaping holes in the plot. We come to care about this character despite some of the situations that the filmmakers throw him into. Screen stalwarts Turner, Aiello, and Moriarty give fine performances even if the script does not always support their best efforts. Harvey Keitel (admittedly not one of my favorite actors) has a harder time with a character that strains credulity to its limits. Also of note are the performances of Carmen Moreno as Sofia and Tina Holmes as JJ's mother. Both are quite affecting. The film has a nice score as well.
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