Plenty of shrewd commercial calculation went into concocting the right sugar coating for this story of an 11-year-old girl’s painful maturation, but chemistry seems right.
Set in an idealized Anytown, USA, supposed to be in Pennsylvania but filmed in Florida, pic can afford to be relatively oblivious to events unfolding in 1972 because the man of the house (Dan Aykroyd) essentially stopped living a decade before. The widower mortician takes barely a passing interest in the doings of his daughter Vada (Anna Chlumsky), an exceedingly bright girl who enrolls in an adult education poetry course because she has a crush on the teacher (Griffin Dunne) and expresses her severe, Woody Allen-like hypochondria by regularly bursting in on a local doctor.
Things change around the funeral home when Dad hires a sexy hippie (Jamie Lee Curtis) to apply makeup to cadavers. Vada spends most of her time with an engaging neighbor (Macaulay Culkin), and although a bit young for a real romance, the two experience their first kiss together.
It’s a rough summer for an 11-year-old, but director Howard Zieff paints it in the manner of a watercolor of a youthful idyll. First-time screenwriter Laurice Elehwany’s script neatly handles a number of details but on larger matters falls into predictable patterns. Performers are highly simpatico.