Busby Berkeley would be aghast at the sight of the newest screen “Gold Diggers”– preternatural cute moppets Christina Ricci and Anna Chlumsky. However , this hash of a girls-will-be-girls adventure bears no resemblance to the choreographer-director’s chorus lines or sagas of overnight stardom. That’s the pity of this corny tale, which would have been enlivened by some singing and dancing.
“Gold Diggers” is an all too familiar tale of misunderstood youth, adventure set against the great outdoors and friendship that stands the test of time. It’s a series of ill-fitting cliches and hackneyed plotting that’s unlikely to muster better than modest box office. The film ventures into Disney family territory only to emerge battered, bruised and diminished by exposure to the triteness of its elements. Beth (Ricci) ventures to the Pacific Northwest (actually British Columbia) circa 1980, when her recently widowed mother (Polly Draper) inherits the family house. The big-city teen initially finds the rustic setting an ill fit. But that quickly changes when she encounters a kindred spirit in the rebellious Jody (Chlumsky).
Considered as bad as a girl can be in that locale, Jody additionally bears the burden of an alcoholic mother (Diana Scarwid). It’s all rather tame stuff to the Los Angeles-reared Beth, who’s attracted to her new friend’s sense of adventure and shared passion for Winnie the Pooh.
On summer solstice, Jody promises the adventure of a lifetime. Only after they’ve set out does she reveal that they’re off in search of Molly Morgan’s gold, a century-old claim hidden somewhere in the caves of Bear Mountain.
The story appears to be on sure, if conventional, footing. But it soon gets lost in the labyrinth of catacombs beneath the looming precipice. The quest for ore is sidetracked when Beth is pinned by a rock as the tide rises and threatens to engulf her. Luckily, her friend has a marathoner’s stamina and reaches help as the water comes perilously close to the youngster’s nostrils.
From that point the pic never quite gets back on track. Jody’s rep as a troublemaker and liar is complete, and only her new chum comes to her defense when she reveals that her mom’s b.f. (David Keith) is violent and abusive. It’s the classic wise child locking horns with dim-witted adults.
Needless to say, the story is resolved happily only after the grown-ups are forced to admit the error of their ways.
Still, one doesn’t have to be of legal age to be several steps ahead of the onscreen protagonists. The highly predictable narrative is abetted by a by-the-numbers score too obvious and loud for the bigscreen.
If it were simply a matter of charm, “Gold Diggers” just might eke by on the charisma of its youthful stars. The more seasoned players are undone by unspeakable dialogue, dull caricature or sketchily conceived portraits. And while director Kevin James Dobson has a feel for natural location, too often one simply can’t fathom how characters have traveled from one location to the next.
Remaining tech credits are top-notch but cannot compensate for the script’s myriad inconsistencies and laughable plot twists. The picture has struck a rich vein that only the greenest of movie prospectors would fail to recognize as pyrites.