By Lynn Venhaus
Borrowing elements of “Groundhog Day” and “Palm Springs,” “The Map of Tiny Perfect Things” is a charming teen rom-com that does not feel forced or derivative.
That is mainly due to the appealing couple at its center – Kyle Allen is Mark and Kathryn Newton, last seen in “Freaky,” is Margaret. The two teens live the same day repeatedly, so after they discover that they share a time loop, they go on a quest to find “tiny perfect things” in their town and create a map. He is more open book and she is more secretive, but together they make a fun couple to hang out with for 98 minutes.
With rapid-paced pop culture-inspired dialogue, the pair banter about a myriad of topics as they explore their city together. References to “Doctor Who” and “Edge of Tomorrow” come up.
Mark has decided that discovering every “tiny perfect thing” in their ordinary small town would be ideal, and they could make a map full of memories.
The pair have terrific chemistry and keep us entertained, when really, we can’t figure out the astrophysics of their predicament, which always makes my head hurt.
What feels familiar in this coming-of-age tale, with its time travel tropes, yields to warm-hearted insights and clever results. There is something special in its sameness.
However, the jaunty tone is not always sustained, which is on purpose, and there is a serious streak about what really matters in life. Mark, who glides through his morning using his repetitive life for good, discovers at 17, the world does not always revolve around you.
The way empathy is introduced midway is not jarring, but rather integral to the plot and their journeys. By then, the couple had us at hello.
Director Ian Samuels has deftly told screenwriter Lev Grossman’s script, which is based on a 2016 short story. He’s aided by Andrew Wehde’s crisp cinematography, with some nifty long takes, as well as Tom Bromley’s in-the-moment indie music score.
The supporting cast is another bright spot, with Jermaine Harris as Mark’s best friend, Josh Hamilton as his dad, Cleo Fraser as his sister Emma, and Al Madrigal as his math teacher.
The film has a pleasant small-town setting, and production designer Kara Lindstrom has captured the rhythms of everyday life in depicting personal space and the town’s endearing framework.
With an emphasis on life lessons for young folk, such as live in the present and make moments count, the story is not routine, but sells its points in convincing fashion. Its mindful and positive focus set it apart.
“The Map of Tiny Perfect Things” is a comedy, romance and fantasy, directed by Ian Samuels. The cast includes Kyle Allen, Kathryn Newton, Jermaine Harris and Josh Hamilton. Rated PG-13 for brief strong language, some teen drinking and sexual references, its run-time is 1 hour, 28 minutes. An Amazon original film. it began on Prime Feb. 12. Lynn’s Grade: B
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat and contributes to other publications. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association. She is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle.