Director Boaz Yakin's low-budget debut "Fresh" signaled a strong talent. "Remember the Titans", the director's big-budget studio follow-up, was a fine drama. "Uptown Girls", the director's fourth feature, is a far slide in the wrong direction - a disasterous little drama that offers two fine actresses the chance to play truly unlikable, truly underdeveloped characters.
The film stars Britany Murphy as Molly Gunn, the spoiled, dumb (she bites into a plastic scone) daughter of a rock star who has left her quite a little fortune, allowing her to live in a posh New York City apartment with little worries. When her accountant takes her cash and runs, she's forced to move in with her mean-spirited "friend" (Marley Shelton) and find a job, for the first time in her life.
After a couple of failures, she finds a gig being the nanny for a near-psychotic little tyke named Ray (Dakota Fanning), who manages to be germophobic, irritating and prone to throwing remarkable temper tantrums (I thought her head was going to spin around in a few scenes) whenever she doesn't get her way. In other words, not a character we're looking forward to be spending 90 minutes with.
Oh, but wait! The two of them - shock! - learn life's lessons before the movie is over. Maybe, just maybe - Molly will learn how to be a halfway decent adult and Ray might learn about how to be a kid, as well as less grating. Ray's mother even learns the fact that - gee, maybe her daugher's messed up because she doesn't pay attention to her. Throw in an awful romance between Molly and bad actor/bad singer Neal (Jesse Spencer, in his first film) and several scenes worth of manipulative sentimentality, shrill arguements between Fanning and Murphy, a handful of continuity errors and you've got the makings of torture.
Murphy has comedic skills when given the right material, but she's rarely proven himself to be a dramatic actress. This script - which somehow took three writers to produce - doesn't give her much of a chance to get laughs and she's unable to get the dramatic moments to not ring completely false. Fanning's character is taken to nightmare levels; while she's also proven herself to be a capable actress, this is an awful character. Limited support by Shelton and Locklear is just that, but Donald Faison (TV's brilliant "Scrubs") manages to get laughs in his scenes.
I hated this film. I hated these characters. The film even squanders the talent of the great cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, who doesn't do a whole lot to add some visual flair to this depressing "comedy".
VIDEO: MGM presents "Uptown Girls" in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is an average transfer, presenting some positive aspects but a handful of quite noticable flaws. Sharpness and detail were generally pleasant, as the picture boasted respectable definition, but could also veer into softness at times.
Flaws included very inconsistent grain, some noticable little specks and marks on the print, some mild edge enhancement and even a few compression artifacts. The film's vivid color palette was largely crisp and cleanly rendered, but some lighting could occasionally seem smeared.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation was largely front-heavy, with very little for the surrounds to do aside from present a few little bits of music. Audio quality was decent, as dialogue and score remained clear.
EXTRAS: "The Lowdown on Uptown" and "Rockin' Style" featurettes, stills gallery, trailer, music video and deleted scenes.
Final Thoughts: Boring (sleep-inducing, really), grating, predictable poorly written and concieved and a waste of all the talent involved, "Uptown Girls" is really one of the worst films films I've seen in 2003. MGM's DVD does pull together some supplements, but its audio/video presentation is purely average. Skip it.