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Now and Then Review

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Four 12-year-old girls grow up together during an eventful small-town summer in 1970.

★★★★★

Ever since Stand By Me redefined the coming-of-age movie, the screen has been crowded with tales of grown-ups recollecting that summer when they were teetering on the brink of adolescence. The latest entry into this overworked genre is a girlie group therapy session that boasts Moore as producer and narrator, together with Melanie Griffith, Rosie O’Donnell and Rita Wilson (aka Mrs. Tom Hanks) as a quartet of long estranged bosom buddies from a small Indiana town, reunited after 25 years when one invokes their childhood pledge to be there for each other in a crisis.
After ten minutes of the oldies circling each other warily, they hand over to the junior team for a trip down memory lane, and the film flips to the summer of 1970 — cue references to Vietnam, The Archies on the radio — as the teens erect a treehouse, giggle about sex, ride bikes, play baseball, hold seances, investigate a mystery and make the discovery that life can be very cruel. And that, basically, is all there is to it.
The familiar proceedings are watchable enough given this attractive ensemble, in particular the precociously assured Ricci (oddly, the one who grows up to be O’Donnell rather than the more obvious Moore, whom she rather more closely resembles). But nothing much really happens, and what does has a tendency to be fragmented and of little interest. That a quartet of chums from the middle of nowhere yields a doctor, a best-selling author and a Hollywood star indicates just how unconvincing and insubstantial the cumulative “life lessons” actually prove. Neither superior nor notably awful, this is merely a pleasant diversion.

Meat and potatoes teen drama.