Riding In Cars With Boys

2001, Movie, PG-13, 122 mins


An uneasy mix of comedy and soap-opera bathos, only partly redeemed by some strong performances — including that of star Drew Barrymore — and a nice eye for period detail. Though we're told that it's a true story, considerable liberties have been taken with author Beverly Donofrio's book, apparently with her approval — she's credited as one of the film's co-producers. In any case, the set-up is intriguing: Barrymore plays real-life memoir-writer-to-be Donofrio, a loveable teen growing up in a working class Connecticut suburb in the mid-'60s, theoretically on the fast track to college until she gets knocked up by a not-too-bright dropout named Ray (Steve Zahn). Bev wants to keep her baby and finish high school, but her parents (Lorraine Bracco and James Woods) insist that she quit to marry Ray (this is, remember, the mid-'60s). The bulk of the film then flashes back and forth between Bev's youthful trials and tribulations, as she raises baby Jason and Ray commits the inevitable serial screw-ups, and late-'80s scenes of mom and grown-up Jason (Adam Garcia), who, as you can imagine, have serious issues to resolve. Director Penny Marshall keeps things moving relatively briskly, but at some point the film's need to be adorable rather overwhelms its credibility, probably around the scene where Bev does a cute little dance to comfort the four-year-old Jason while Ray, who's just admitted he's a junkie, undergoes hellish, cold-turkey withdrawal symptoms in the next room. Fortunately, Barrymore is excellent in a part that calls on her to act rather more than she's usually asked to, and Zahn — who's rapidly turning into the anti-Michael J. Fox — is similarly fine in what has to be one of the most thankless, unsympathetic leading man roles in movie history. Added bonuses: a nice selection of oldies on the soundtrack, and an amusing third-act cameo by Rosie Perez as Ray's second wife. leave a comment --Steve Simels

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Riding In Cars With Boys
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