Anna Chlumsky, the star of “My Girl 2,” isn’t a conventionally adorable movie tyke, and that’s to her credit. She has pluck and smarts, and she doesn’t mug for the camera. This sequel to “My Girl” isn’t much--it’s essentially for people who found that first film endearing--but Chlumsky, at 13, may turn out to be one of the few child stars to successfully make it into the world of adulthood performing.
In the meantime, there are cloying entertainments like “My Girl 2" (citywide) to contend with. In the first film, Chlumsky’s Vada, whose mother died giving birth to her, maneuvered her way into an adult writing class because she had a crush on the teacher. Her father, played by Dan Aykroyd, was a mortician who embalmed corpses in the basement of their home.
With this kind of background, one would expect Vada to be a bit more wiggy and careworn than she is in “My Girl 2.” The film, set in the spring of 1974, is about Vada’s search for information about her deceased mother. (She’s writing a school paper on her.) Journeying to Los Angeles, where her mother grew up, she stays with her uncle (Richard Masur) and the woman he lives with (Christine Ebersole) and her son (Austin O’Brien) and ferrets out clues. She pressures her mother’s old high school friends to offer up personal tidbits. Of course, we’re supposed to regard her mission as an inner voyage. Vada learns who she is by finding out who her mother was.
This dubious scenario is made even more so by the treacly approach of director Howard Zieff and screenwriter Janet Kovalcik. Everything in this film is sugared with sermons about the importance of Being Yourself. Vada doesn’t experience any twinges of rage at the loss of her mother or any misgivings about her quest. She’s preternaturally mature.
The processed coziness of “My Girl 2" is tolerable only because, besides Chlumsky, the performers are better than average for this sort of thing. Aykroyd once again plays well against Jamie Lee Curtis, as Vada’s stepmom; they seem like a real married couple and not the usual movie put-up job. Masur is warmly expert, and Ebersole matches him. O’Brien, rebounding from “Last Action Hero,” works well with Chlumsky. They all do better by this movie than it deserves. They should call themselves GooBusters.
‘My Girl 2'
Dan Aykroyd: Harry Sultenfuss
Jamie Lee Curtis: Shelly Sultenfuss
Anna Chlumsky: Vada Sultenfuss
Austin O’Brien: Nick Zsigmond
A Columbia Pictures presentation of an Imagine Films Entertainment Production. Director Howard Zieff. Producer Brian Grazer. Executive producer Joseph M. Caracciolo. Screenplay by Janet Kovalcik. Cinematographer Paul Elliott. Editor Wendy Greene Bricmont. Costumes Shelley Komarov. Music Cliff Eidelman. Production design Charles Rosen. Art director Diane Yates. Set decorator Mary Olivia Macintosh. Running time: 1 hour, 46 minutes.
MPAA-rating PG, for thematic elements and mild language. It includes deceased parent material unsuitable for very small children.