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, and the New York locations are well served.
The disc presents a good 1:1.85 transfer of the film, the menus are pleasingly designed and there are production notes, cast biographies, and a synopsis included. The case states that there is a trailer gallery but I sure couldn't find it.
Not a classic film by any means, but "Prince of Central Park" does contain some rich performances, nice use of New York locations, and a unique musical score. I would recommend it mostly for young Frankie Nasso's performance, or for those admirers of the work of Kathleen Turner, Danny Aiello, or Cathy Moriarty.