Riding in Cars with Boys: Special Edition

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Beverly D’Onofrio (Drew Barrymore) has big plans & dreams for her life and while she is only fifteen, she is certain she can make all of them come true. But sometimes life has a way of throwing curveballs and Beverly gets one, to say the least. At the tender age of fifteen, she finds herself pregnant and this is sure to throw her police officer father (James Woods) for a loop, given how protective he is of her. The father is Ray Hasek (Steve Zahn) and after the two young parents get married, Beverly discovers a whole new side of her husband. She has to spend as much time looking after Ray as she does her newborn son, which means she has little to no time for herself, let alone her plans & dreams. Her hopes of going to college to become a writer are fading away and with time, she begins to resent her husband and even her own son. When Ray turns to narcotics, it sends even more shockwaves through Beverly’s life, who now has to deal with an immature, but always lovable, drug addicted husband. But her resolve has remained strong, so she pushes forward toward her dreams, but can she overcome the odds and get her writing published?

I went to see this movie on a date and I had no interested in the least, as it screamed chick flick of the worst kind, emotional drama with small moments of comic relief. But the cast seemed good, with Drew Barrymore, Steve Zahn, James Woods, Brittany Murphy, and others, so I figured at least the performances would be good. In the end, I found Riding in Cars with Boys to be better than expected, but it never moves beyond good to grab the title of great, perhaps due to the rather halfhearted approach taken. I feel as though director Penny Marshall never pushes the material in the needed direction, which means the film stays light in tone, when it should sometimes be a little heavier, for emotional impact. On the other hand, the movie never becomes too light, so comedic moments can be slim and that leaves in an odd position, as the film is never too humorous, but never that serious either. I am pleased that the cast & crew were able to keep this one above water, but I think some risks here & there could have pushed it over the top. So I think this works best as a rental, though Columbia has served up a solid disc, so fans shouldn’t hesitate to snatch this special edition release.

In this film she plays a character from age fifteen on, but Drew Barrymore handles all the challenges and then some. She proves her skills once again, although I do think she could have put more emotion behind her performance at times. You can tell she connects with the material, but her emotional range is suspect in some scenes, though she never fails to work hard and deliver a solid treatment. So yes, someone might have been able to get more emotion out of the material, but Barrymore works well here and provides a more than solid performance. Her fellow cast members help out also, so she is able to play off them and push herself a little at times, which is always good in a movie like this. Other films with Barrymore include Charlie’s Angels, Donnie Darko, Bad Girls, Firestarter, Never Been Kissed, and Poison Ivy. The cast also includes Steve Zahn (Saving Silverman, Joy Ride), Brittany Murphy (Don’t Say A Word, Clueless), and James Woods (The Virgin Suicides, Vampires).

Video: How does it look?

Riding in Cars with Boys is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This is another superb day & date transfer from Columbia and while some small flaws emerge, I see no reason to pan this one. The main issue comes from the source print, which looks clean most of the time, but some scenes have a more worn look, though nothing serious. It was just a little unexpected, given the film’s young age and Columbia’s track record, so I wanted to mention it here. The image shifts in terms of softness & color scheme when the era changes within the film, but I think colors, contrast, and flesh tones look good throughout. So not a reference level transfer, but a very good one and it should please all viewers.

Audio: How does it sound?

This movie is all about the dialogue, so don’t expect a powerhouse mix, although the included Dolby Digital 5.1 option is better than expected. I knew vocals would be clean and well presented, even when the screams hit the roof, but I didn’t think the surrounds be would be used much, given the focus of the material. There is some solid, effective use of the surrounds however, to add natural atmosphere to the film and it enhances the experience, to be sure. The little touches help pull you into the movie and that’s always a good, welcome premise. The musical soundtrack also offers some audio punch, which notches the score up a shade. This disc also includes a French language option, as well as subtitles in English, French, Korean, Chinese, and Thai.

Supplements: What are the extras?

I suppose the highlight of the extras is an audio commentary with Drew Barrymore, but it might be too technical for some folks. I expected a candid, humorous session, but Barrymore is quite serious and talks a lot about the acting process, how she prepared for the film and got inside the mind of her character. Next is a series of featurettes, which each tackle a specific topic, such as how Barrymore researched her role, the various cars seen in the picture, how the story evolved from a novel to Beverly’s memoirs, and how the film’s house was built. All of these are brief, but still contain a lot of information, so don’t overlook them. A more extensive, but also more promotional HBO behind the scenes featurette is also included and it runs about twenty minutes, with interviews, clips from the film, and behind the scenes footage. This disc also includes some talent files, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer.

Disc Scores