Disneyified "Lolita"

While I'm confident nobody connected with this film was aiming for the "family friendly" version of Nabokov's Lolita, Too Young to Kiss comes off as the comedic version, minus any hint of actual controversy. Then paste on a basic idiot plot by partially combining two characters - without bothering to tell half the cast. All you have left is a vague air of trying to be subversive.

Cynthia Potter wants a career as a pianist - she's good enough, but fiance John is opposed. She tries to get the attention of impressario Eric Wainwright, but has to resort to entering a children's contest to do so. At 5'2, June Allyson makes for a reasonable pre-teen Molly, and Eric falls for it, hook, line, and sinker. When Eric comes to visit Molly, her "sister" Cynthia plays for him, and while he agrees she is talented, he isn't looking for adult performers. Reluctantly, Cynthia keeps up the act as her chance to actually perform. As Molly, Cynthia is able to smooth over a random encounter with fiance John only to lapse by drinking and smoking at times when Eric could find out. Our would-be mentor concludes John and Cynthia are poor role models for Molly.

So Eric wisks Molly, quite against her will - but hey, she's only a minor, right? - to his home upstate where he has the great fortune of two pianos. Predictably, the fireworks really start to fly, what with Molly's frustrations and Eric's steadfastness. Here's where we start touching on the theme of pedophilia, but Eric strictly refuses to consider the attraction, even when put directly to him by his housekeeper. Eric's attitude is the same as the script's, disavowing any acknowledgement of such feelings for a minor. Once her cover is blown, his outlook changes dramatically - too much to believe. That the filmmakers have a motivation, whether political or practical, is quite apparent here. Eric, our hero, is too perfect, even discussing adoption of his youthful ward. Contrast this with the title of the film, and it's clear we're supposed to be feeling the tension of forbidden love, yet we only get Cynthia's frustrations of living in Molly's skin.

Basically, Too Young to Kiss is a premise in search of someone willing to actually execute it. Eric is too perfect - can't we at least catch a moment of self-chastisement in his character? And speaking of perfection, Cynthia's fiance John isn't far off the mark to begin with, but he is clearly expendable from his opposition to her career. There ought to be a little subtlety in a film like this - or at least the kind of film this one wants to be.

The players do well enough with the surfacy material. Pleasurably, June Allyson's talent at the piano is nearly as impressive as Alicia Witt's in Playing Mona Lisa. Accounting for half a century's difference in film style and technology, it's too close to call. But it's always nice to see hands playing the music we hear, rather than some rhythmic body swaying when the real action is hidden by a prudent camera angle.

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