Riding in Cars with Boys, Penny Marshall's latest offering to the Gods of Chick Flick, tries hard to be the sweet coming-of-age drama promised by the trailer. In certain respects, it succeeds. The primary storyline finds young Beverly (Drew Barrymore) unwed and pregnant in 1964 Connecticut. To avoid bringing shame to her Italian (and staunchly Catholic) family, she marries her boyfriend, a perennial loser and eventual junkie (Steve Zahn). All the hilarity that one might expect ensues as Beverly, whose character should be a likeable one, spends the rest of the lengthy screenplay complaining about how these events have ruined her life and crushed her dreams. Never once does she acknowledge that these actions are, in fact, matters of her own choosing.
Perhaps the only thing more flawed than the actual storyline is the presentation of said storyline. Screenwriter Morgan Ward's dialogue is wooden and flavorless, and a magical supporting cast (Lorraine Bracco, James Woods, Sara Gilbert, Peter Facinelli, Brittany Murphy) is terrifically underused. In addition, I have it on good authority from a well-read friend that the screenplay is highly unfaithful to the book upon which it is based. I hate that. Bottom line: someone else paid for my admission and I still felt cheated out of 2 hours and 12 minutes. Save this one for VHS.