Early teen Vada Sultenfuss is obsessesd with death. Little wonder, her mother died when she was small, her dad runs a funeral parlour, and her best mate, Thomas J. is allergic to everything. And now his father has hired a new make-up artist and looks to be falling in love.
A sweetly unassuming teen flick about a young girl’s quirky coming of age. Set a million miles from the brash Clueless-Mean Girl’s high school hierarchies, the aim here is a small-town charm (as in ‘70s Pennsylvania), with just a hint of quasi-Lynchian weirdness — death hangs about this small girl, from the ghost of her dead mother, to the funeral parlour run by her jovial pop (a jovial Akyroyd), through to the tragedy that steers the later half of the movie. That nothing much really happens adds a further scent of reality. We’re investigating the lyrical side of puberty, as it were.
Anna Chlumsky, never too movie-cute, has pluck to spare as Vada, even subduing that little weevil Macualay Culkin to just goofy grin and his best performance. Their friendship feels fresh, wafting to the soft rhythms of a sunny childhood. Tragedy naturally strikes, we’ve got to have some personal growth for Vada, a tribulation doubled when she is faced with a rival for her father’s easy affections in Jamie Lee Curtis. But the slow shuffle to which Howard Zieff times his movie never breaks, allowing a quietly moving truth to emerge from its low horizons. A lesser sequel appeared later, sending Vada off to Los Angeles to find boys, but lacked the easy grace here.
Despite being an entirely formulaic heartstring-tugger with some finger-gagging moments (Chlumsky sobbing over Culkin's open casket, "He was going to be an acrobat!") the performances are appealing, particularly the endearing Chlumsky, and enough tender