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‘Uptown Girls’ fall on hard times

Elliott: Rock-n’-roll nanny meets super brat in vacuous summer fluff
/ Source: contributor

It took four writers to scribble “Uptown Girls,” and they must have split their crayon into four pieces. Maybe they shared itsy bits with stars Brittany Murphy and Dakota Fanning.

Murphy is Molly, a sweetie with big, Walter Keane eyes (much eyeliner) and an aura of wired, frantic darlingness. Her dead dad, a pop star, left her a collection of fab guitars, and she has a golf putter “given me by Tiger at the Masters.” Despite such booty she is kicked out of her posh Manhattan apartment and, though hardly moving downscale, becomes a rich kid’s nanny.

The kid is Ray, the packaged mini-princess Fanning, who seems from a Stepford planet where young wannabes channel the career voltage of Jodie Foster. Mother (Heather Locklear) is mostly gone, and Ray’s father is parked in a coma nearby; as she notes warmly in her flat, piercing voice, “He’s a vegetable.”

She may be the most insufferable film brat since Kirby Furlong in “Mame,” and gives Molly the finger twice. But Fanning acts — totally! — as if going from a retarded dad in “I Am Sam” to a coma papa is just part of her campaign to be adopted by all of us.

Nanny and bratty bond with the help of a pink pig, intrusive pop songs and a mutual zeal for inanity. Molly has idiotic pratfalls. Ray stages a prissy little tea party to Mozart’s Requiem, which Molly sizes up as “a soundtrack to slice your wrist to.”

She prefers a rising “rock ‘n’ roll poet sex-god” who shows off his chest and is said to be a “smokin’” talent, though his voice is only a vapor. When not ogling the boy toy (has feminism come to her even as a rumor?), Molly teaches Ray “fundamentals of fun,” including a dull day at an empty Coney Island.

The shot of Nathan’s famous hot dog joint is a clue that Michael Ballhaus has been a major cinematographer. But one could never guess from this cinder block of candy, which lands crushingly on his talent, that director Boaz Yakin once made “Fresh,” a strong New York film about a remarkable black child.

You need to have some aesthetic sense to find this drivel appalling. Otherwise, it is just mindless summer fluff. So, forget taste.

David Elliott is the movie critic of The San Diego Union-Tribune. © 2003 by the Copley News Service.