Uptown Girls Movie Review

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You have to pay close attention, but there's a subtle hint in an early scene of Boaz Yakin's unwatchable Uptown Girls that let's us know what's in store: A TV playing in the background of a useless scene shows Looney Tunes scoundrel Wile E. Coyote plunging off a cliff to his umpteenth demise. Those who pay good money to sit through this dud will relate to that sinking feeling.

Haphazardly slapped together without an original bone in its anorexic frame, the film stars Brittany Murphy as Molly Gunn, daughter of a late rock icon. Since day one, Molly has been living like a pig in you-know-what off her father's royalties. One day, though, her accountant bolts for South America with all of her savings, forcing our intrepid heroine to climb down from her pedestal and find a paying job.

Judging by her slutty wardrobe and liberal use of eye make-up, one would assume that Molly's best equipped to turn tricks, but Girls mistakenly envisions her as a nanny for screechingly neurotic grade-schooler Ray (Dakota Fanning). The textbook odd couple, Molly tries to loosen Ray up with rock music and day trips to Coney Island, while Ray does her best to disinfect anything her new guardian touches. Smart kid.

Girls is that rare type of catastrophe that occurs when unfunny people try their hands at comedy. Director Boaz Yakin, for starters, has no sense for humor. Granted, the dim script only provides him with one or two workable gags, but he successfully botches both of them. There's something to be said for consistency, I guess.

The rest of Yakin's work is wildly inconsistent, a sputtering bore bogged down with nervous energy that makes the whole film feel jittery and out of sync. Fanning, for instance, is naturally cute. Casting her as a walking phobia is more off-setting than humorous. Then there's Murphy, who spends the entire picture looking like she just emerged from a knock-down drag-out fist fight in a transvestite bar. The talentless waif is consistently upstaged by her adolescent counterpart. They're both eclipsed by a pint-sized pet pig. Who would've guessed that Murphy's dreadful Just Married would be her best film this year?

Girls dreams of being a fairy tale. Chintzy production values make it look as believable as one, and the gaping plot holes help it sound about as logical as one. Minor missteps clog the first half-hour. Molly's electricity and gas have been turned off, though she and her lover, mopey rocker Neal (Jesse Spencer), hole up there for days without mention of the lack of utilities. Molly is told that her answering machine has 98 messages on it, despite the fact that her phone service has been turned off. Eventually I grew tired of nitpicking but couldn't ignore one major gaffe: Neal declares celibacy at the start of the picture, but sleeps with both Molly and Ray's negligent mom (Heather Locklear) before the final credits roll. Did he forget his vow of self-preservation? We're victims of lazy filmmaking and sloppy screenwriting.

Then again, what can you expect from a movie that thinks it's funny to have eight-year-old Ray give the finger not once, but twice (in case you missed it the first time). At one point, Ray spots Molly chugging fruit punch and suggests, "Why don't you just drink cyanide? At least it's quick." She might as well be talking to anyone foolish enough to be sitting in the audience.

Deleted scenes, a music video, and a couple of featurettes make up the extras on the Uptown Girls DVD.

Sorry, this train's going downtown. Way downtown.

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Uptown Girls Rating

" Terrible "

Rating: PG-13, 2003


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