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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Another Odd Couple
by Betty Jo Tucker

Quick! Someone please put Dakota Fanning and Haley Joel Osment  in a movie together before they grow up. Both youngsters display talent way beyond their years, and they act rings around others appearing on screen with them. In Uptown Girls, Fanning again shows off the exceptional acting skill she brought to her role as Sean Penn's precocious daughter in I Am Sam. This time she portrays a rigid 8-year-old going on 80 who goes through nannies like they're disposable robots. Brittany Murphy co-stars as the latest "au pair," a 22-year old who's more of a child emotionally than her little charge.

Too bad both of these characters are so unsympathetic. Rae (Fanning) exists in a sterile environment, hardly ever seeing her high-powered working mom (Heather Locklear). Her dad's in a coma, and she's become fearful of germs and extremely cynical. Rae's only interests revolve around classical music and ballet. Molly (Murphy), the daughter of a famous rock star, takes the job as a nanny only after losing all the money her parents left her when they died in an airplane crash. She's never worked before, having lived a lifestyle of constant partying and shopping to the max. Molly's juvenile attempts to take care of Rae seem more pathetic than comic. And here's the crux of the movie's problem. It tries to walk a tightrope between comedy and tragedy without relying on any kind of net, so the falls really hurt. 

When Rae and Molly argue (which takes up most of the movie's running time), they do so over such silly things as tea parties, washing dishes, food preferences, how to bathe a pet pig, and so forth. Where their dialogue should be funny, it's simply bitter -- or worse, mean-spirited. Murphy pulls off a few slapstick sight gags, but nothing to compare with her hilarious pratfalls in Just Married. And her character's romance with a budding rock star (Jesse Spencer) comes across as forced and confusing.  Where's Ashton Kutcher when we need him?

Still, Fanning manages to give us some magical moments here -- her pixie face attempting to remain calm as she searches the audience for her missing mom during a ballet recital, her determined look while spinning the Giant Teacups as fast as she can during an amusement park sequence, and her clumsily charming dancing in the ballet tribute at the end of the film. 

Uptown Girls is an urban fairy tale with a predictable happy ending. Molly and Rae, who have learned so much from each other, become better human beings. Rae gets her childhood back; Molly at least wants to grow up; and no one eats the pet pig.   
(Released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and rated "PG-13" for sexual content and language.)

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