Riding in Cars with Boys (Blu-ray) (2001)

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Released 5-Jul-2017

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy / Drama Audio Commentary-Drew Barrymore
Featurette-x 5 (39:11)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 131:16
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,4 Directed By Penny Marshall
ViaVision Starring Drew Barrymore
Steve Zahn
Brittany Murphy
Lorraine Bracco
James Woods
Desmond Harrington

Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Hans Zimmer
Heitor Pereira

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, and drug use
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

†††† It is 1965 and Beverly (Drew Barrymore) lives in a small town in Connecticut with her mother (Lorraine Bracco), Police Sergeant father (James Woods) and younger sister. Bev is an intelligent young woman who writes poetry, dreams of going to college and likes boys; at15 she attends a party with her best friend Fay (Brittany Murphy) but is humiliated by the jock of her dreams. On the rebound she goes parking with Ray (Steve Zahn), Fay and Fayís boyfriend Bobby (Desmond Harrington) and shortly afterwards discovers that she is pregnant. Although Bev has other plans, under pressure from her family she marries Ray and has a son, Jason. At the same time Fay discovers that she is also pregnant and has a daughter; with Bobby away in the army in Vietnam the two friends become even closer.

†††† Although Ray loves Bev and his son, he is a slacker who drinks and cannot hold down a job. They are however helped by Bevís parents and Bev studies hard to get a scholarship and make something of her life. But she is dragged down by looking after Jason and, indeed, looking after Ray who becomes addicted to heroin. Finally Bev has had enough and asks Ray to leave, after which she brings up her son as a sole parent. Later, she starts to write a book about her experiences that will be entitled ďRiding in Cars with BoysĒ.

†††† Riding in Cars with Boys is based upon the non-fiction book by Beverly Donofrio and is directed by Penny Marshall. Marshall is perhaps better known as an actress, with 67 credits listed on the IMDb, mostly TV series such as Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley, although she does have other directing credits including Jumpiní Jack Flash (1986) starring Whoopi Goldberg and A League of Their Own (1992) with Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Madonna and Tom Hanks. Riding in Cars with Boys is another story of female empowerment, of a woman refusing to accept convention and rising above the hand she has been dealt. The film however takes a while to get there as this is leisurely storytelling. Perhaps to give the film some dramatic drive it has a non-chronological structure; at the beginning of the film Bev is about to get her book published and is picked up by a young man, who we learn is her son Jason (Adam Garcia), now 20 years old, and driven out of New York. During the drive we get Bevís story in flashback, while Jason also stops a few times to telephone his girlfriend Amelia (a young Maggie Gyllenhaal), who is Fayís daughter. Towards the end of the film we discover that they are driving to visit Ray, who neither has seen for years, in order to get him to sign a waiver because of some of the contents in the book. The meeting with Ray is the catalyst for mother and son to finally resolve their own differences. For at its centre, Riding in Cars with Boys is a story about parents and children.

†††† This is Drew Barrymoreís film; in the extras she says she was drawn to the material because she understands from her own family what a dysfunctional family can be. In Riding in Cars with Boys she is required to play ages between 15 and 35; there is no use of prosthetics and, in those times before CGI enhancement, some age periods work better than others. She was 25 at the time of filming and the middle sections about Bev in her 20s work best as Barrymore does not really convince as a 15 year old, nor as a 35 year old, not helped by the fact that the actor playing her son, Australian Adam Garcia, was actually two years older than Barrymore. She does give it her best shot and she is pretty good and always watchable, but the age differences are obvious plus the fact that we know it is Drew Barrymore we are watching takes us out of the picture and we are not as involved in Bevís struggle as we should be.

†††† Nevertheless Barrymore does a brave job of making sympathetic a woman who is self-centred, selfish, driven and not a very good mother. Others in the cast, including Lorraine Bracco and James Woods, are also good and despite this film being about families that donít necessarily function as well as they might there are no evil people in this film, only parents and children who donít really know how to relate to each other. This is equally true of Steve Zahnís Ray; he is a drug user, a drinker and a layabout but he is not an evil man, only a man who cannot stop himself from doing what he does. It is a fine line which Zahn pulls off well and the scene where he has to say goodbye to the son he loves is heart-wrenching.

†††† Riding in Cars with Boys was promoted as a family comedy, which it is not. There are some funny parts with a deadpan James Woods getting most of the best lines but it is really a drama although, despite the subject matter including teenage pregnancy and drug abuse, it is certainly not hard edged or confrontational. Instead, this is a semi-serious, rather meandering drama with nice visuals, good production values and an interesting story to tell about patents, children and mid-1960s small town American values. The period detail is nicely done, without being overdone, and the monster gas-guzzler cars would delight any 60s car fan!

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Transfer Quality


†††† Riding in Cars with Boys is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

†††† It often seems to be winter in the film, whether we are in 1961, 1966 or 1986, with snow on the ground and no leaves on the trees so the colour scheme is dull greys, browns and white, although the sky can be a brilliant blue. Elsewhere, colours are rich and natural and detail strong. Blacks and shadow detail are excellent, skin tones natural and brightness and contrast consistent.

†††† Grain is noticeable in some scenes but it is well controlled and other than a couple of small specks I did not notice any artefacts or marks.

†††† No subtitles are provided.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


†††† Audio choices are English or French Dolby Digital 2.0 at 448 Kbps.

†††† The lossy audio is surround encoded although it was mostly music that was directed to the rears as, other than the wedding and a family birthday party scene, there is little by way of effects in the film. Dialogue however is clear and easy to understand.

†††† The original score is by Hans Zimmer and Heitor Pereira. This is not a recognisable Zimmer score and is not in any case used frequently in the film. This was because much of the score consists of period popular music including songs by The Everly Brothers, Neil Sedaka, Gerry & The Pacemakers, Billy Idol, Cyndi Lauper, Eurythmics, Sonny & Cher, Freddie And The Dreamers and The Supremes that come over clearly, but would have sounded better in lossless!

†††† There are no lip synchronisation issues.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Drew Barrymore Commentary

†††† Drew Barrymore provides a chatty, amusing and self-deprecating commentary talking about the challenges of playing the role, due both to the different ages the film covers and also to trying to think how Bev would think, ad libs, other cast members, the director, her philosophy of life, characters and plot points while she also draws on the experience of her own childhood including issues with her mother and father. An honest, moving commentary.

Featurettes (39:11)

†††† These are all SD and run together without titles. First up are 4 featurettes totalling just over 17 minutes which could be entitled Drew Becoming Beverly, The House and Neighbourhood Set, The Period Cars and The Real Bev and Jason. After this there are some credits before what is a HBO ďBehind the ScenesĒ featurette. Running just on 22 minutes, this repeats some interviews and information that were in the shorter featurettes but adds information on the hair and make-up, aging Drew, best friends, motherhood and the book to screen process. All featurettes consist at various times of still photographs, on set and film footage and comments by director Penny Marshall, screenwriter Morgan Upton Ward, Beverly Donofrio and her son Jason Budrow, Drew Barrymore and most of the other principal cast members. Worth watching once.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

†††† The only Blu-ray release of Riding in Cars with Boys listed on Amazon is this Australian Region Free release. There are DVDs around, some of which have Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, but for Blu-ray this is the only choice at the moment.


†††† Riding in Cars with Boys is obviously a film that went to the heart of those who made it, including director Penny Marshall and star Drew Barrymore. The result is a film that is well intentioned but which, rather strangely for a story of such themes, does not build much drama. The film is interesting in parts, and the visuals of snowy landscapes look great, but the parts are rather better than the whole.

†††† The video is good, the audio lossless. The extras are decent.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Thursday, October 05, 2017
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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