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Vada Sultenfuss resides
In a funeral home; besides,
She’s just eleven, but her knack
Is being a hypochondriac.
Her one real friend is Thomas J.,
Who is allergic, by the way.
On her teacher, she has a crush,
Which she hides, despite a blush.
Although it’s summer, Vada speeds
To a class that Mr. Bixler leads,
A writing class for poetry,
Which she composes childishly.
Her undertaker dad did list
His need for a cosmetologist.
One Shelley answers, though misled,
And needs the job, despite the dead.
She’s worried for young Vada, who’s
Obsessed with death and morbid views.
Though Vada likes her, she grows mean
When Shelley and her dad are seen
Beginning a relationship,
Which Vada would much rather skip.
Yet Shelley’s kind and helps her through,
When fears of growing up debut.
Once Vada shares a kiss, her first,
With Thomas J., then comes the worst.
He goes to seek her lost mood ring,
But hornets swarm him as they sting.
Poor Vada’s shocked to learn he’s dead,
And at his funeral tears are shed.
She’s further stunned when it is said
That Mr. Bixler will soon wed.
She runs off, but when she returns,
Her father calms her deep concerns,
And life goes on with newer friends
And less distress for how life ends.

My Girl is one of those classic coming-of-age tales that also has an unexpected tearjerker ending. Though it lacks the obvious voiceover of Stand by Me, the whole film feels like a childhood flashback etched on someone’s memory. Anna Chlumsky is perfectly cast as young Vada Sultenfuss and does so well that it’s a shame she hasn’t done much else, though she’s had a recent comeback on shows like HBO’s Veep. Coming a year after Home Alone made him a star, the film also reminds us of how cute Macaulay Culkin was back in the day as the ever-allergic friend Thomas J. Dan Aykroyd and Jamie Lee Curtis are also spot-on in very different roles from when they starred together in Trading Places eight years earlier.

As with Murphy’s Romance, much of the film’s charm lies in its small moments: Vada’s first kiss with Thomas J., her incessant visits to the doctor to confirm that she’s dying (or not), Harry and Shelley’s bingo night (hmm, that is like Murphy’s Romance). There are also some hilarious scenes that exemplify the word dysfunctional. Picture this: Vada’s father carries on a conversation at the dinner table while her grandmother starts singing a Gershwin song while Vada is on the floor, pretending that her prostate is killing her. I can’t help but laugh.

With its innocent portrayal of childhood in 1972, My Girl is mostly clean as well (aside from some sexual dialogue during the poetry class), unlike other foul-mouthed coming-of-age stories like American Graffiti and Stand by Me. It’s a charming film that is sad, sweet, and funny all at once, with a ‘70s soundtrack and a touching poem at the end. What’s not to like?

Best line: (Vada) “Why do you think people want to get married?” (Thomas J.) “When you get old, you just have to.”

Artistry: 8
Characters/Actors: 8
Entertainment: 9
Visual Effects: N/A
Originality: 8
Watchability: 9
TOTAL: 42 out of 60

Next: #199 – Philadelphia

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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