Monday, October 22, 2001 Volume 67, Issue 43



Drew Barrymore drives career forward 
in 'Riding in Cars'

By Amanda Mahmoudi
Daily Cougar Staff

As if the sappy Home Fries was not enough to satisfy young Drew Barrymore's curiosity about motherhood, her starring role in the new movie Riding in Cars with Boys could definitely be classified as an overdose.

Based closely on the life of Beverly Donofrio, who wrote the memoir of the same name as the movie, the movie begins with light, comical scenes of teenage angst before unleashing the heartache and dolorous struggle spanning approximately the next 20 years.

At the age of 15, Beverly already knows she is a great writer. Unfortunately, she cannot restrain her sexual prowess.

After dating high school dropout Ray Hasek (Steve Zahn) for a month, Beverly discovers the incredible: She is pregnant.

Against her better judgment, she follows the counsel of her parents and marries Ray.

Andrew Schwartz/Columbia Pictures

Only 15 years apart, Beverly (Drew Barrymore) and her son Jason (Cody Ahrens) practically grow up together in the new film Riding in Cars with Boys.

One can infer the rest of the story from that point: the trials and tribulations of an eventually single mother who does not give up on herself.

Critically acclaimed director Penny Marshall (A League of Their Own) creates a series of flashbacks of mother and son as they drive to find the estranged Ray.

This particular structure proves to be quite trite. Imagine Beaches with an extra boy in the car with Bette Midler.

The appearance of the older, wiser versions of Beverly and her son Jason (played by newcomer Adam Garcia) between flashbacks only disrupts what could have been a fluid story line with the harsh reality that Barrymore, 26, simply does not look the part of a 30-something mother.

Though her performance at stages could be categorized as halfway convincing, Barrymore's portrayal of her character at other various ages is distracting throughout the entire movie.

The most enjoyable and viable scenes are the ones in which she actually is in her 20s, topped only by the tender sweetness of the various babes who play her toddler son.

The noteworthy performance by Brittany Murphy (Girl, Interrupted) in the role of Beverly's best friend Faye provides both emotional validation and comic relief (remember the Beaches comparison -- except no one dies).

The friendship also allows Barrymore to be her best.

The supporting cast -- James Woods (Ghosts of Mississippi), Lorraine Bracco (The Sopranos) and Zahn (Joy Ride) -- remains mostly elusive, though strong.

One has the impression Barrymore would stop crying in practically every scene if only one of them would just show up.

An entertaining and surprising cameo appearance by Rosie Perez incites fear that the saga could go on longer than its approximate two hours.

Everyone has problems. However, if you don't have enough of your own, make a beeline for the cinema and Riding in Cars. You will laugh a little. You may even cry.

Even so, it may be more comfortable to do so on the comfort of your own couch in a few months, armed securely with the fast-forward button on your remote control.

Of course, you could always forego the overly time-consuming drama simply by understanding the following sophomoric statement: Single motherhood sucks and sacrifice is a bummer.

But don't fret. Everyone lives happily ever after.

Riding in Cars with Boys

Starring Drew Barrymore, Steve Zahn, Brittany Murphy
*** (out of five stars)
Columbia Pictures

MPAA rating: PG-13

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