My Girl was a hit family film that starred newcomer Anna Chlumsky and highest-paid minority actor Macauley Culkin in a touching story about love, death, stepmothers, and all that other good childhood stuff. Naturally, a sequel was cooked up to make more money. And like many sequels, it made less than half the original. Is this second kiddie flick good anyway? Columbia TriStar's DVD of My Girl 2 presents itself to the court for judgment.
Facts of the Case
Vada Sultenfuss (Anna Chlumsky) is finally at peace with her father Harry's (Dan Aykroyd, Ghostbusters) decision to marry Shelley (Jamie Lee Curtis, True Lies), the makeup artist he hired to help out at his funeral home. Shelley's expecting, so now Vada won't be the only child anymore. Vada wants to find out more about her mysterious mother who died before she grew up. Since she has a school holiday coming up and an uncle in her mother's hometown of Los Angeles, Vada decides to do some research, using a school project as the perfect excuse. As Vada finds out more about her mother, she may be learning more about herself.
Vada arrives in Los Angeles hopeful. Her Uncle Phil (Richard Masur, Stephen King's It) and his girlfriend Rose (Christine Ebersole) prove to be a welcoming presence as she arrives at their car repair shop. Rose's son Nick (Austin O' Brien, Last Action Hero), however, leaves something to be desired. Not one to enjoy hanging around girls with cooties, Nick is less than thrilled when Phil gives him the task of chaperoning Vada on her "Mom" research.
Still, nothing can deter Vada, and before long, she's caught up with her mother's old friends, including an entertaining Ben Stein as a photographer who had asked her mother out twice (unsuccessfully) and another who turned her mom in for smoking, making her the first student to be suspended for such a crime. Vada may even have met her real father, but a face-to-face meeting with this mystery man is the one thing that will tell her the truth.
In the meantime, Nick warms up to her, and Vada's stepmother is getting closer and closer to the delivery room. There may be a happy ending to this story, even though Vada can't have her mom back.
The search for one's past can always dredge up old feelings. To be a precocious adolescent and have these issues can be overwhelming. It is to the actors' credit that this story feels natural and genuine, without being sappy. Aykroyd and Curtis are excellent and sincere; Chlumsky deserves extra credit for her sensitive and down-to-earth screen presence. Christine Ebersole (Saturday Night Live, Dead Again), as Uncle Phil's girlfriend Rose is excellent, proving her once again to be one of the more underrated actresses in Hollywood. Playing her Uncle Phil is lovable standby Richard Masur in a very decent performance. The only weak link is Austin O'Brien as Rose's son Nick. He has a rough and wooden way with his lines that makes him thoroughly unlikable, especially compared to the eminently watchable Chlumsky.
However, the good actors in this film can't save it from itself. It's just not that great a family flick: too slow for the kids, too boring for the adults. Vada's search for her mother is a quiet, laid-back affair with very little in the way of revelation. Sure, a quiet meditation on the meaning of family is not a bad thing, but with rote dialogue and clichéd subplots, there's nothing new said here about nontraditional families. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a snooze.
The technical specs weren't too exciting either. I guess to appeal to family audiences, the disc is shown in full frame 1.33:1 format. This actually wasn't a big crime considering the after-school special feel of the film, so I'm not really complaining, though it would have been nice to see a more fluid widescreen treatment of the film. Colors were a bit dull and watery; I would have liked to have seen a sharper transfer of My Girl 2.
The Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono soundtrack was lifeless, but it served this simple movie's needs well enough. The sound emitted from the front speakers had no depth or shading; background noise and dialogue are smushed together. Again, however, the subject manner doesn't warrant a bangin' soundtrack.
Extras consist of three trailers—all in widescreen, ironically—of the original Annie, a quaint-looking kid movie Little Secrets, and Stuart Little 2 (which looks adorable, by the way). As for other treats, we simply get audio in three languages and subtitles in four.
Not much to go on here, on a DVD lacking a movie with engrossing plot and extras. The acting performances here are wonderful, but you won't find much of anything else to get excited about.
Sentenced to an eternity on the 2:00 AM slot of the Disney Channel programming schedule!
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