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Published: Friday, 8/15/2003

Movie review: Uptown Girls (bomb)

BY CHRIS HEWITT
SAINT PAUL PIONEER PRESS

A poor little rich girl becomes a poor little poor girl in Uptown Girls, but really she's a poor little annoying girl.

Irresponsible Molly (Brittany Murphy) lives in splendor until her accountant walks off with all her cash, so she becomes a nanny to uptight, lonely, rich girl Ray (Dakota Fanning). It's supposed to be a fish-out-of-water comedy in a Legally Blonde vein, but what Uptown Girls amounts to is two creeps yelling at each other for 90 minutes.

The biggest culprit is the writing, which substitutes insults for jokes and leaves us with characters who make no sense.

Throughout Uptown Girls,” it is fascinating to measure the vast distance between what the writers thought they were doing (breezy comedy) and what they actually did (glum, maudlin mess). But let's not forget to blame the actors.

Murphy, who is worrisomely thin and has a vacant look much of the time, appears to be in distress. What happened to the vibrant, quirky girl who was in Clueless a few years ago?

Fanning, on the other hand, was never vibrant or quirky.

She's supposed to be a third-grader here, but her businesslike jaw, automaton line readings, and brittle emotions make her a natural to play Nancy Reagan, and I'm not talking about the young Nancy Reagan.

The sense that these two young women are trapped in this awe-inspiringly putrid film gives Uptown Girls a weird subtext. It's supposed to be a light, funny fairy tale, but the actresses project nothing so much as sadness.



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