Picks and Pans Review: Gold Diggers: the Secret of Bear Mountain

updated 11/20/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/20/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

Anna Chlumsky, Christina Ricci, Polly Draper, David Keith, Brian Kerwin

What with all the estrogen-dripping, girlhood-celebrating movies around these days, a guy could be warm-fuzzied to death at the multiplex.

This little fable is a case in point, albeit one that ought to delight every 11-year-old girl in the country. It is a buddy movie for prepubescent females. Chlumsky, 14, an outcast tomboy, meets Ricci, 15, a spoiled city brat, when the latter moves with her widowed mom, Draper, from Los Angeles to a small town in Washington state.

Chlumsky is obsessed with the legend of a 19th-century woman who knew where some gold was buried in a nearby mountain cave. After meeting Ricci in the woods, she persuades her to join in a trek to find the gold. This part of the plot is fun and includes the best trapped-in-rising-water sequence since 1977's Sometimes a Great Notion. But writer Barry Glasser gums up his own works with a subplot involving Keith, the abusive, alcoholic boyfriend of Chlumsky's mother (Diana Scarwid).

Chlumsky and Ricci outshine their elders, especially thirtysomething's drab Draper and the weak Kerwin as a local sheriff who's smitten with Draper. But that's fitting, since this is a movie about kids who are smarter, braver and more understanding than the adults who care for them. It's not quite a feminist Huckleberry Finn, but it's close enough to be entertaining. (PG)

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