Leaving Barstow -- 2 of 5 stars

Roger Moore

"Barstow" has long been the California version of Perth Amboy or Flushing -- the town as regional punchline.

Thus, Leaving Barstow, a coming-of-age drama whose title says it all. The kid's stuck in blue-collar, dusty, dull Barstow. And he needs to get out.

That's what Mr. Johns (Steven Culp) has decided his best student, Andrew (Kevin Sheridan), must do.

But it's not that simple. Andrew is half-supporting his dizzy and promiscuous waitress-mom (Michelle Clunie). She's constantly blowing her salary and sometimes his (he works part time at a book store) on her latest fling.

Andrew is painfully shy, so it takes him a pretty good while to hit on mom's new co-worker, Jenny (Ryan Michelle Bathe), who has been flirting with him from the first time they met. At least he's world-wise enough to size her up in an instant.

"If you're in Barstow, you must be on your way to LA."

Leaving Barstow has scenes that seem to date from Screenwriting 101 as taught in, say, 1985 -- with absurdly frank sex-talk among pals, Andrew's devotion to an amateurish late-night radio host and cliched confrontations with mom's too-young new beau. Decent acting hides some of those shortcomings. But not most of them.

Screening at: 6:30 p.m. Sun. Mar. 29, Enzian; 4:30 p.m. Thurs., April 2, Regal.

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