This sweet yarn about a kid roughing it in Central Park scores top marks in the good-intentions department, but it's much less successful in terms of keeping viewers interested for the long haul. Pic features an appealing performance from young lead Frankie Nasso, but that's not enough to salvage the film, which seriously drags in the late going. The first family film from action star Steven Seagal's production outfit Seagal/Nasso, it looks likely to have a less than royal presence on the bigscreen and will more likely find its home on the tube.

This sweet yarn about a kid roughing it in Central Park scores top marks in the good-intentions department, but it’s much less successful in terms of keeping viewers interested for the long haul. Pic features an appealing performance from young lead Frankie Nasso, but that’s not enough to salvage the film, which seriously drags in the late going. The first family film from action star Steven Seagal’s production outfit Seagal/Nasso, it looks likely to have a less than royal presence on the bigscreen and will more likely find its home on the tube.

JJ (Nasso) is a New York kid with a fairly rotten lot in life. His foster mother (Cathy Moriarty) is a money-grubbing, abusive creep whose behavior is so abhorrent that JJ decides to live on his own in Central Park. There he meets an odd collection of characters, beginning with the Guardian (Harvey Keitel), a frightening-looking fellow who lives in a cave and turns out to have a heart of gold. JJ also befriends Rebecca (Kathleen Turner) and her estranged husband, Noah (Danny Aiello), a couple who have never recovered from the drowning death of their 14-year-old son several years earlier.

One of pic’s problems is that as soon as Rebecca appears on the scene, it’s all too obvious that JJ will stand in emotionally for her lost son and she’ll take the place of his mother. Turner’s reasonably believable as the tortured mom , while Aiello and Keitel hardly make their presence felt. There are occasionally moving moments, but writer-director John Leekley is unable to breathe much life into this too-predictable tale.

Jonathan Herron’s lensing does a good job of capturing the feel of central Manhattan, and Ted Shapiro contributes a light, bouncy Latin score.

Prince of Central Park

(DRAMA -- U.S.)

Production

A Seagal/Nasso production. (International sales: Seagal-Nasso Distribution Co., L.A.) Produced by Steven Seagal, Julius R. Nasso, John Gulino. Executive producers, Abe Hirschfeld, Karen Poindexter, Phillip B. Goldfine. Directed, written by John Leekley, based on a novel by Evan H. Rhodes and a musical play by Rhodes, Donald Sebesky, Gloria Nissenson.

Crew

Camera (color), Jonathan Herron; editor, Philip Steinman; music, Ted Shapiro; art director, Betsy McDonald; sound, Jeff Pullman, Carl D. Ware. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 12, 1999. Running time: 109 MIN.

With

With: Kathleen Turner, Danny Aiello, Cathy Moriarty, Frankie Nasso, Harvey Keitel, Lauren Velez, Jerry Orbach, Mtume Gant.
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