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Riding in Cars With Boys Review

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Drew Barrymore ages from 15 to 35 with a variety of haircuts in this based-on-a-true-story tale of a girl whose teen pregnancy dashes her dreams of going to college.

★★★★★

Contrary to the title, it's not riding in cars with boys that changes Beverly's life - it's getting up to something steamy in the back of a stationary vehicle with sweet-but-dim Ray.

Getting pregnant in 1968 at the age of 15 doesn't impress her police chief dad (James Woods). And neither is Bev herself very thrilled, as her predicament leads her to reluctantly marry Ray, move to a run-down house in the scuzziest part of town, and give up any dreams she had of going to college and embarking on a writing career.

Flitting between Bev's life as a teenage mum hemmed in by a cute son she resents and, her 35 year-old self's car journey with her grown-up son to track down her estranged husband, it's easy to understand why the movie was so attractive to Barrymore.

She gets to display her acting range - see Drew cry, see Drew scream, see Drew yell - and tackles those tough-as-nails moments that often garner Best Actress Academy Award nominations.

The director, however, consistently shies away from the rough stuff when things get remotely gritty, following every scene when Bev behaves bitchily with a soft, slushy one to soften the blow.

It's this lack of conviction that is the film's only real failing, as the cast are all superb. Woods and Brittany Murphy are terrific, while Zahn - expanding his goofball persona and turning it into something almost tragically pathetic - just about steals the film.

Elsewhere, Barrymore shows off her skills, and is only uncomfortable to watch when she's trying to play someone old enough to have given birth to Adam Garcia.

Penny Marshall takes this too far into mushy chick flick territory, but thanks to a tough-as-old-boots performance from Barrymore and a superb turn from Zahn, it's worth the trip.