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Calling all girls, ages 12-14

Little Secrets has a little romance, a little message and is of little interest to most audiences.

By PHILIP BOOTH, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 22, 2002

Little Secrets has a little romance, a little message and is of little interest to most audiences.

Adolescent girls may go gaga over Little Secrets, a comedy-drama with a little romance thrown in, notable mostly because of an appealing lead performance by Evan Rachel Wood (Practical Magic, television's Once and Again).

The mildly entertaining movie could be a tough sell for other audiences, though. Younger kids won't really get it, or care about the boyfriend-girlfriend subplot, and adults may treat it all as so much juvenilia. It's the big-screen equivalent of an ABC Afterschool Special, updated a bit but still bogged down with multiple morals. Plus, there's a perfunctory commentary on a social evil facing today's youth: underage drinking and the mayhem it causes.

That's just one of the many secrets kept hidden by the film's young characters. Handsome high-schooler David (David Gallagher of TV's 7th Heaven), new to the block, is the token bad boy in training, in trouble because of an incident at tennis camp.

Emily (Wood) is the self-appointed keeper of confidences in her suburban neighborhood. For a small fee, she listens to a tyke's tale of trouble, and then locks the evidence (a damaged chess piece, a broken necklace) in a trunk for later retrieval. She's part priest, part storage business operator and, in the process, part co-conspirator.

A little bit of knowledge about the kids' activities is dangerous, and Emily soon discovers that her part-time job is damaging her relationship with her two female friends, as well as new best buddy Philip (Michael Angarano, Will and Grace and Almost Famous) and his big brother, potential boyfriend David.

Emily, a talented violinist taking lessons from former orchestra luminary Pauline (Vivica A. Fox), also faces down multiple crises, including sibling rivalry and a quest for a berth in the local youth symphony. What may be more interesting, though, is Wood's competition with a performance of her own, in Simone, also opening in theaters this week. When was the last time a young actor stumbled into two shots at breakthrough success simultaneously?

Little Secrets

Grade: C-plus

Director: Blair Treu

Cast: Evan Rachel Wood, Michael Angarano, David Gallagher, Vivica A. Fox

Screenplay: Jessica Barondes

Rating: PG

Running time: 107 min.

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