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Frost

Nick Hornby would know what to do with a bachelor like Jack Frost -- after all, such emotionally stunted thirtysomethings come to their senses in "High Fidelity" and "About a Boy," two Hornby adaptations first-time director Steve Clark surely had in mind when fashioning his own man-child-makes-good fable, "Frost."

With:
With: Jason Behr, Monet Mazur, Lucy Gordon, Krysten Ritter, India Ennenga, Mike Landry.

Nick Hornby would know what to do with a bachelor like Jack Frost — after all, such emotionally stunted thirtysomethings come to their senses in “High Fidelity” and “About a Boy,” two Hornby adaptations first-time director Steve Clark surely had in mind when fashioning his own man-child-makes-good fable, “Frost.” Though the transformation is basically the same, pic plays it cute, making the character’s existential crisis about as convincing as his name. This reluctant playboy role could be a breakout one for former “Roswell” star Jason Behr, though pat indie pic will have to find a receptive audience first.

What “Frost” lacks in movie stars it makes up for in leggy, Maxim-worthy actresses, who parade through the revolving doors of Jack’s Manhattan apartment building. Surrounded by knockouts determined to tame him, from fun-loving heroin junkie Ozzy (Krysten Ritter) to judgmental journalist Kate (Lucy Gordon), Jack rarely sleeps alone.

However, their efforts are in vain, since Jack remains fixated on his grade-school crush, Caroline (Monet Mazur), now engaged to someone else. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way, Jack huffs. As kids, the pair made promises to wed one day, which we see re-enacted in flickering birthday-party flashbacks.

Jack even wrote a novel to show his love, which Caroline, a book editor, published but otherwise failed to acknowledge. That was seven years ago, and since then, Jack’s been lost in a “sexual hurricane,” using a series of one-night stands to numb the pain of unrequited love.

His best friend Scotch (Mike Landry) would kill for some of Jack’s luck with the ladies, serving as both comic foil and boorish counterpoint to Behr’s ultra-sensitive bachelorhood. A little edge would have gone a long way toward deepening Jack’s character, and though the material is leagues beyond anything Behr’s been asked to do before, he resorts to channeling Tom Cruise (fingers to temples, eyes squinting, jaw meaningfully clenched) to telegraph the character’s inner turmoil — not especially convincing, but sure to slay the ladies.

The only person who really gets Jack is 11-year-old neighbor Sophie (India Ennenga) — a pre-pubescent fairy princess sent in to remind us that Jack Frost’s maturity level is frozen at roughly the same age. With her sideways smile and sympathetic eyes, Ennenga is wonderfully comfortable on camera, and scenes in which she coaches our puppy-dog hero are a delight, however implausible.

The grown women, by contrast, are sexy enough, but none seems quite right for Jack, which breeds impatience while the poor guy sorts out his self-centered agenda.

Though Jack himself is incredibly earnest, the process of watching him outgrow his Peter Pan complex feels mushy and mostly contrived, and seems inspired more by similar films (with debts not only to Hornby but also to Cameron Crowe’s oeuvre) than by personal experience.

On-the-nose song choices fit a little too snugly, as do many of “Frost’s” life lessons. With its gorgeous cast and sharp HD lensing, Gotham-based production looks polished and makes good use of the city.

Popular on Variety

Frost

Production: A Black Note Films, CPlus presentation. Produced by Mike Landry, Carlos Velazquez, Steve Clark, Terry Leonard. Executive producers, Sean Campbell, Ian B. Wile. Co-executive producer, Sebastian Nicolas. Directed by Steve Clark. Screenplay, Clark, Thomas Moffett.

Crew: Camera (HD), Brian Burgoyne; editor, Connor Kalista; music, Peter Bradley Adams; music supervisor, Stephanie Diaz-Matos; production designer/costume designer, Amanda Ford; sound, Eben Baume; associate producer, Moffett; assistant director, Atilla Ucer; casting, Eve Battaglia. Reviewed at Sony Studios, Culver City, Jan. 9, 2008. (In Slamdance Film Festival -- competing.) Running time: 95 MIN.

With: With: Jason Behr, Monet Mazur, Lucy Gordon, Krysten Ritter, India Ennenga, Mike Landry.

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