Riding in Cars with Boys

  • Review Date: May 19, 2003
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2001
  • Running Time: 132 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Not a great movie, although Drew Barrymore shines.
  • Review Date: May 19, 2003
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2001
  • Running Time: 132 minutes

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Violence

Tense family scenes.

Sex

Teen pregnancy.

Language

Some strong language.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Substance abuse, including heroin.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie has non-explicit teenage sex and pregnancy. Characters drink, smoke, and use drugs, including use of a hallucinogenic drug while watching a child and heroin addiction. A character sells drugs, and Bev and Fay briefly become involved in helping him. There is a painful scene of withdrawal. All of this is presented in a realistic manner with realistic consequences that should help teenagers understand the seriousness of this behavior. There's also some strong language.

Parents say

Kids say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

What's the story?

Based on a true story, RIDING IN CARS WITH BOYS centers on Beverly Donofrio (Drew Barrymore), whose dreams of going to NYU and becoming a writer seemed impossible when she became pregnant at age 15. Beverly is the daughter of a policeman (James Woods) and a homemaker (Lorraine Bracco). When she gets pregnant by sweet but irresponsible drop-out Ray (Steve Zahn), her parents insisted that they get married. They spent the next seven years on welfare. As the movie begins, Beverly has written her life story. She and her son, now in college, have a wintery journey of reconciliation as they seek out Ray to get him to sign a release so that the book can be published. The story alternates between that snowy car ride and flashbacks to the past that led up to it.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Like the life of its subject matter, there is a lot that is wrong with this movie, but there is also something right enough for a bittersweet happy ending. This is not an upbeat story with a lot of cute sit-com-y moments. Bev is not a good mother. She is so angry at Ray, her son Jason, and her parents that her behavior is often selfish and bitter. If an actress less irresistible than Barrymore were in the role, we would stop caring whether she ever got to college.

The script makes some odd choices in showing us too many scenes of Bev's despair and nothing about what she did that finally pulled her life together. Jason's romantic involvement seems to tie up too many loose ends to be authentic. Director Penny Marshall bangs too hard on the cultural signifiers of each era Bev lives through, and the soundtrack's songs are pedestrian. But the movie gets four stars just for Barrymore's performance as she shows us Bev at 15, 20, and 35. Zahn, always a marvelous actor in comedy or drama, gives a performance of great generosity and heart. There are also great moments from Brittany Murphy, as Bev's friend Fay, and Woods as Bev's dad.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how families support members who have made bad choices and the importance of accepting responsibility for your mistakes. What did Bev's family do wrong? What did they do right? Why was she able to achieve her dream? What did Jason do to make her see things differently? What do you think about Ray's comment that the best thing he could do for Jason was to leave him?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 19, 2001
DVD release date:March 19, 2002
Cast:Brittany Murphy, Drew Barrymore, Steve Zahn
Director:Penny Marshall
Studio:Columbia Tristar
Genre:Drama
Run time:132 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:thematic elements, drug and sexual content

This review of Riding in Cars with Boys was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

Find out more

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Adult Written bywonder dove June 26, 2012
AGE
13
QUALITY
 

One of the best!

Absolutely wonderful movie! One of my favorites. Drew Barrymore is exceptional and plays Beverly's character perfectly. This is probably one of the best coming-of-age movies out there that you can actually learn from. Everyone makes mistakes but not everyone learns from them...Beverly *eventually* learned from hers. I felt sorry for her through most of it because she never actually got what she wanted out of life - she married a man she didn't love only because of their silly decision one summer that lead to a child they had together, she never got to go to university which she so badly wanted, she and her best friend Fay who also gets pregnant (remarkably played by the deceased Brittany Murphy) got separated and could no longer be the close friends they once were...and so much more, her life was literally depressing. She finally realizes that her son was the best thing that ever happened to her and was worth everything she went through, so she wrote a book about her life and that is how this film was born. Acting was incredibly realistic, Drew and Brittany were amazing together. Steve Zahn kept the laughs coming, he is so hilarious in this even when it may not be intended! There is a bit of teen violence. Drug use & references of using heroin by the husband and his friends (one scene of marijuana scattered on a kitchen table getting ready to be packed and sold) and also a few mentions of "weed". Some making out (one heavy scene with Fay and her boyfriend in a bathroom), two teen pregnancies. Overall, a must watch!!
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Adult Written bySarah Grace November 7, 2010
AGE
12
QUALITY
 

I described pretty much the whole plot in my review, but there's good info

Very educational movie. If you think about it, anyway. It's based on a true story. The main character girl makes mistake after mistake; she's clearly lost. She doesn't save herself for marriage, and she eventually gets pregnant (and thinks the baby is far worse than her fornication when the baby wasn't the problem at all). She debates with herself and her boyfriend on whether or not she should abort her child. Finally doing the right things, she keeps her baby and marries the father of her child. But, after a few years, she tells her husband to go away forever because of his addiction to drugs (instead of being patient with him, and really trying to help him). Later in her life, she becomes excessively controlling of her son; finally doing another right thing, she lets her son go to the college he wants to go to.This movie is a good depiction of what the state of fallen humanity is - lost. And we need help from Jesus. Although this movie really has nothing to do with God, it shows how life is for people when they have no guidance by not studying their Bibles, not listening to wisdom. (The only parts I would fast forward is a few lingering make-out scenes, and a brief parked-car-at-night-in-front-of-a-waterfall-at-a-park-looking-place. But these things are really only there to make the movie more realistic. There's nothing very explicit, though.)
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Digital Compass