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Movie Review

Riding in Cars With Boys

MPAA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPAA) for thematic elements, drug and sexual content

Reviewed by: Douglas Downs

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Older Teen to Adult
2 hr. 12 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
Relevant Issues
Drew Barrymore and Cody Arens in “Riding in Cars With Boys”
Premarital sex

I just found out I’m pregnant and I’m not married. What should I do? Answer

Pregnancy—Is abortion an option? Answer

Should I save sex for marriage? Answer

What are the consequences of sexual immorality? Answer

What are the guidelines for dating relationships? Answer

Sex, Love and Relationships (video)

Featuring: Drew Barrymore, Brittany Murphy, James Woods, Steve Zahn, Lorraine Bracco
Director: Penny Marshall
Producer: James L Brooks, Laurence Mark, Sara Colleton, Richard Sakai, Julie Ansell
Distributor: Columbia Pictures

Steve Zahn and Drew Barrymore in “Riding in Cars With Boys”Beverly Ann Donofrio shares in her book Riding in Cars with Boys how one day can change your entire life. Her story, subtitled “Confessions of a Bad Girl Who Makes Good”, tries to capture some of the attitudes of the 60s. Young people, who did not go off to war, hung out, drank, smoked, rebelled, and sometimes had sex. Donofrio talks frankly about consorting with lowlifes, indulging in drugs, and being promiscuous. She became pregnant at age 15 and married (briefly) before getting divorced. We get a picture of life in a working-class Italian-American family in Wallingford, Conn. Donofrio, who is now a freelance journalist in New York, tells about raising a son, being a single mom, getting off of welfare, and finally graduating from college. It is a story of overcoming barriers and, without a lot of encouragement, making it into adulthood.

“Riding in Cars With Boys” (the film) sends a message that sex outside of marriage does have consequences.

Our story begins in the present. Beverly (Drew Barrymore) has asked her grown son Jason (Adam Garcia) to drive her to meet with her ex-husband Ray Hasek (Steve Zahn). She needs his signature so she can publish her first book. The film is told through a series of flashbacks. They come from both Bev and Jason’s perspective. We see our heroine as a bright and bubbly teenager who is full of promise. The problem is that she has become promiscuous in order to be popular. When a football player humiliates her at a party, Ray comes to her rescue. A few months later, Bev is pregnant and her parents (Lorraine Bracco, James Woods) are extremely disappointed. They help their daughter get married and never fail to underscore their displeasure. Our story continues to unfold and we see Ray evolve into a deadbeat dad. We watch Bev’s classmates reaching their dreams, while hers just always seem to be out of reach. There are plenty of doses of reality given throughout this bittersweet tale.

The film has some negatives. We do see two teens sometimes flaunting their promiscuity. The language is mild and we do witness the effects of verbal, mental, and substance abuse. I do think the film can be used wisely as a deterrent for teens engaging in pre-marital sex. The National Center for Health Statistics has reported that the teen pregnancy rate (between ages 15-19) dropped 19% between 1991 and 1997. The fear of AIDS and many organizations encouraging our youth to rediscover abstinence has helped. Some states have created Web sites to help teens learn more about abstinence. New York’s site is and Florida’s site is I also recommend to parents and teens and Just like 9/11, a day can truly change your entire life.

Viewer Comments
Positive—Some will find the content of this movie objectionable; this is not a movie for everyone, but it is very real. Drew Barrymore slipped into the role as if she was living out the pain and consequences of her own life—in front of a camera. I appreciate that the moviemaker did not candy coat her situation. I could relate, and I feel anguish, pain, and bitterness inside of me as she struggled. Beverly was very human, not willing to take responsibility for her own actions, not willing to realize that she messed up. Her humaness was portrayed in such a way that, though it was not over exaggerated, it was easily distinguished. I can see this movie as being a potential learning tool for people, possibly a way to asses their own lives, that they might realize any pain they inflict on others as a result of blindness to their own faults.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4½]
Amber Holborn, age 18
PositiveSteve Zahn’s impressive. What other actor have you seen lately that one minute has you absolutely loving him and the next completely disgusted by his behavior? In addition, I loved the conclusion to this film, when (don’t worry, I won’t ruin it for you), Bev realizes what it is that’s been holding her back in life. A great film for Drew Barrymore, I’d say. And hopefully this will lead to more dramatic roles for Steve Zahn, as well.
My Ratings: [Average / 4½]
Liz, age 18
Positive—Riding in cars with boys was a great movie! It tells about the consequences of making the wrong decisions when your young and vulnerable. I felt that it showed kids what can happen on one night. I felt the moral to be very good. I found it to be very deep and I even cried during certain parts. I felt that it was better then most movies that are out there for my age group. If you take certain movies that are out in the world today that your children watch your children may get the wrong idea because so many different movies out there have bad morals. I told my mom the minute we walked out of the theater that this was my all time favorite movie.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
Felicia, age 12
Negative—I am disappointed that christians would consider this to be a good movie that they would recommend. I felt this movie was offensive because of the suggestive scenes (in the beginning of the movie) and because even though it was a true story it painted a picture for the viewers that her son was the reason for all the grief in her life, rather than it being her choice that changed things. Some would say that this would make a young girl think twice about premarital sex, however my view is that it promotes abortion more than abstaining. In a nutshell, the movie was basically a story of a dysfunctional family with a weak ending that made me feel like I wasted my money.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 3]
Jenifer, age 25
Positive—I am a Drew Barrymore fan so I was at the theater to see this one right away. Somewhat disappointed, it wasn’t as funny as the previews made it look. It was, however, a pretty deep movie about the consequences a teenage mother had to face. The movie spans 30 years. Beverly (Drew Barrymore) goes through many rough decisions and problems all while blaming her son for what has happened to her. It took her 20 years (the age of her son at the end of the movie) to finally realize what she had been doing wrong and to correct it. The ending is very powerful. It is a slightly long film, but ultimately I think you will be satisfied with the outcome. Drew Barrymore does give a great performance as does Steve Zahn who plays her husband. Go see this one if you like movies with a powerful ending and a good message.
My Ratings: [Average / 4]
Scarlett, age 22
Positive—I just went and saw this movie last night, and I have to tell you its not what I was thinking. But I think that this movie did portray the consequences of teenage sex, and the life it could lead to. Although Bev (Drew) did blame her son for her life being so messed up, and I had to think to myself, if only she could realize she messed up to begin with and stop blaming him, things would be okay for the son. I do think this is a positive movie… there is not much language, I think I only can remember 3 or 4 …but it is a good movie… a little long but good… and it’ll make you cry.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 3]
Rachelle, age 18
Positive—This movie was a well-done look at the consequences of choices, both good ones and bad ones. Drew Barrymore’s character, Bev, realizes(and admits) a little too late that her parents’ concern for her behavior was well founded and meant for her own good. She feels the brunt of her father’s disappointment in her rebellious ways. She feels the back-stabing pain of fair-weather friends. And she struggles to maintain a relationship with the father of her son even though she never loved him and he is a dead-beat husband. Even through all of this, she is determined to succeed in life. But her determination sets her down another path of sin, ignoring her son and remaining completely self-centered. The great thing about this movie is that she finally realizes it. It takes nearly her entire lifetime, but she finally opens her eyes to the reality that she is responsible for her actions. And her actions continue to affect her son. She is also reconciled to her father at the end. This movie may be hard to watch [for some]…
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
Lori, age 27
Negative—I found this movie to be a real downer. How sad it is to see a parent blaming there children for ruining their lives. We have enough of that in todays society but to glorify it and make it look funny is just stupid. A father continually telling his daughter how disappointed he is in her. A father who chooses drugs over his son. And a mother who locks her kid out of the house so she can dry weed and sell it. Then blames her son for ruining her life when he tells on her. If you are looking for a film with good family values, stay away from this one.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 3]
Arizona, age 29
Movie Critics

“…long but ultimately satisfying…

Sun Newspapers of Cleveland

“…Barrymore brings warmth and passion to every moment she’s on screen…

Cynthia Fuchs, PopMatters

“…paints a realistic picture of the consequences of teenage sex…

Preview Family Movie and TV Review

“…MESSAGE—Teens who get pregnant can ruin their lives. If you want to change your life, it’s up to you. Motherhood is not a job…


“…a traffic accident of a movie…

The Globe and Mail