RIDING IN CARS WITH BOYS
Parental Love Overcomes Selfishness
Release Date: October 19, 2001
Starring: Drew Barrymore, Steve Zahn,
Brittany Murphy, James Woods,
Adam Garcia, Lorraine Bracco,
Sara Gilbert, Mika Boorem,
Logan Arens, Cody Arens, &
Skye McCole Bartusiak
Audience: Teenagers & adults
Runtime: 131 minutes
Distributor: Columbia Pictures/Sony
Director: Penny Marshall
Executive Producer: Bridget Johnson, Sara Colleton
& Morgan Ward
Producer: James L. Brooks, Julie Ansell,
Laurence Mark, & Richard Sakai
Writer: Morgan Ward
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Barrymore plays the real life Beverly, a frustrated writer who becomes pregnant and married at the early age of 15 – in that order. Beverly’s pregnancy causes a rift between she and her father. Taking care of her unreliable, addictive husband and her precocious little boy, Jason, prevents her from going to college and becoming a writer. She finally kicks her husband out of their little house, but she still has problems trying to make ends meet.
Years later, Beverly’s ready to take her book to a publisher. Jason reminisces about the events described in her book as he drives Beverly to an important meeting with her ex-husband. Jason thinks his mother’s always been a little bit too self-absorbed. He wants to tell her about his decision to transfer to the college where his girlfriend is studying, but he is afraid to tell Beverly, because his girlfriend happens to be the daughter of Beverly’s best friend, Fay. Parental love eventually wins the day, however. Family misunderstandings are cleared up, and some reconciliations take place.
Beverly’s self-absorbed, romantic view of the world in RIDING IN CARS WITH BOYS is overcome by the moral premise in the movie – that parental love overcomes selfishness. Thus, the title of the movie refers just as much to Beverly’s relationship with her son and her father as it does to her relationship with her husband Ray, who’s played by the very talented Steve Zahn from JOY RIDE. Scenes of Beverly riding in cars with her father and Beverly riding in cars with her son, Jason, keep recurring and play an important role in the resolution of her story in the final act.
Drew Barrymore does an excellent job as Beverly, going from age 15 to age 34 or 35. She gets to play a wide variety of emotions, including some comical slapstick scenes. Her comic portrayal in those slapstick scenes are interesting, because they show that Barrymore could be another performer in the mold of the late Lucille Ball, whose 50-year anniversary of the groundbreaking I LOVE LUCY show occurred this fall. Also providing an insight into this aspect of the movie is the fact that Penny Marshall (A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN and BIG) showed a Lucy-like flair for physical comedy as Laverne in the hit TV show LAVERNE & SHIRLEY.
Assisting Barrymore on this movie is not only Steve Zahn, one of America’s most talented young actors, as Ray, the dimwitted husband, but also Brittany Murphy as Beverly’s best friend, James Woods as Beverly’s father, Adam Garcia as Jason, the son, and Lorraine Bracco as Beverly’s mom. To Penny Marshall’s credit, all of these major players turn in solid performances, but, besides Barrymore, the stellar standouts are Zahn, Murphy and Woods.
Diluting the moral premise and redemptive elements in RIDING IN CARS WITH BOYS are some PG-13 obscenities and profanities (plus one muffled “F” word), some mild sexual implications, two brief drug subplots, and the movie’s romantic, feminist worldview regarding Beverly’s plight. Instead of focusing on God and her Divine Savior, Jesus Christ, Beverly centers her life on trying to go to college and becoming a writer. To her credit, she doesn’t really neglect her parental duties, but it’s clear that she is exasperated by having to concentrate so much on them. Indeed, the movie generates much sympathy for Beverly when her family problems keep interfering with her career goals. Of course, there is a high level of satisfaction in having such lofty career goals, but Beverly’s satisfaction level in that area would greatly increase if she devoted her writing career to serving the Lord instead of serving herself. Not only that, but the joys of parenting would also be much higher for her (or anyone else for that matter), if she considered being a mother as a divine duty in service to God, not just as a moral duty to serve her son. For, that is the message that Jesus Christ gave in Matthew 6:33 when he told his followers, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.”
Drew Barrymore does an excellent job as Beverly, from age 15 to age 34 or 35. She gets to play a wide variety of emotions, including some physical comedy. To director Penny Marshall’s credit, Barrymore is ably assisted by the rest of the cast, especially Steve Zahn as the husband, Brittany Murphy as Beverly’s best friend and James Woods as Beverly’s father. Diluting the moral premise and redemptive elements are some PG-13 obscenities and profanities, some mild sexual implications, two brief drug subplots, and the movie’s romantic, feminist worldview regarding Beverly’s plight.