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Riding In Cars with Boys

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Riding In Cars with Boys

Starring: Drew Barrymore, Steve Zahn
Director: Penny Marshall
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 122 Minutes
Release Date: October 2001
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Sara Gilbert, Brittany Murphy, Mika Boorem, Vincent Pastore, Lorraine Bracco, Adam Garcia, Rosie Perez, James Woods, Peter Facinelli

Review by Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4

Penny Marshall's RIDING IN CARS WITH BOYS is two thirds of a good movie. After a successful comedic hour or so, the movie makes a sharp turn and becomes a long piece of shameless schmaltz that doesn't know when to stop. Morgan Ward's script, based on Beverly D'Onofrio's autobiography, makes the mistake of trying to shoehorn in too many episodes and ages. The resulting structure makes it feel like excerpts from a long running television series. Individual incidents in the film are quite funny, but the meandering and bloated last act makes you forget how much you laughed in the beginning.

A spunky Drew Barrymore plays the hardworking Beverly D'Onofrio, a woman who had a baby at age 15 but who eventually followed her dreams and became a writer. The on-going joke between herself and her son is that she isn't a particularly good mother. Like SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS, Barrymore plays opposite a large number of actors playing her son Jason. I believe the final count is six, but I might have missed some of them. Trimming the story down to just a few would have helped immensely. The best of the bunch is Logan Arens, who is the round faced and highly verbal 3-year-old Jason. Adam Garcia, Mr. Sex Appeal from Coyote Ugly, is lethargic as the grownup Jason.

Steve Zahn (JOY RIDE) plays Beverly's screw-up husband Raymond. Zahn, whose specialty is playing wonderfully lovable doofuses, stretches a bit this time. His character, while he has his likable side, can also be quite repulsive. A heroin addict, an alcoholic and a generally unfit parent, Raymond, in his limited capacity, tries to be a good father and husband but fails miserably. Raymond's AWOL approach to his family is both a blessing and a curse.

The movie's best scene occurs in the beginning when Mika Boorem (HEARTS IN ATLANTIS) plays the young Beverly. In the car with her police officer father (James Woods), she is asked what she wants for Christmas. Her father holds the possibility of a bike over her head. Although he figures she'll take the bait, she surprises him by asking for something to attract a boy. She wants a bra to display her nearly non-existent assets. With a bra she believes she can compete with the more popular girls who are further along with puberty. Her life will be one of going for the winners and ending up with the losers when it comes to the opposite sex. Her lifelong girlfriend, Fay (Brittany Murphy), becomes the one constant in her life. Murphy, who had a showy part in DON'T SAY A WORD as the troubled teen, is given a very straightforward one as a sidekick this time. She delivers a solid but unmemorable performance.

Even if Penny Marshall's direction is filled with problems, Drew Barrymore is a real trooper who gives the movie her all. She does everything asked of her and generally pulls it off. From trying to throw herself down a flight of small stairs to singing and dancing for her child while her husband is trying to kill his heroin habit in the next room, she is a real charmer. If you leave before the last act begins, you'll probably find the movie itself just as satisfyingly sweet. Stay and you'll find it cloying.

RIDING IN CARS WITH BOYS runs a long 2:03. It is rated PG-13 for "thematic elements, drug and sexual content" and would be acceptable for kids around 11 and up.

My son Jeffrey, age 12, who gave the movie only * 1/2, said it seemed like it would never end. He liked the funny parts when Jason was young but didn't care for the rest of the movie.

Copyright 2001 Steve Rhodes

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