November 3, 1995 in Seven

Thar’s Gold In The Acting But Little Treasure In The Script

Michael Rechtshaffen The Hollywood Reporter
 

Despite the title’s promise of grand adventure, “Gold Diggers: The Secret of Bear Mountain” is less Nancy Drew and more domestic drama in the ill-fated “Radio Flyer” vein.

While the picture boasts the pairing of two of the industry’s brightest young actresses - Anna Chlumsky (“My Girl”) and Christina Ricci (“Casper”) - their game efforts are hampered by sluggish direction and talky, bland writing.

Given an already tricky target demographic (young teenage girls), “Gold Diggers” is going to have a tough time unearthing much in the way of box office treasure.

Set, for some reason, in 1980, the story is seen through the eyes of 13-year-old Beth Easton (Ricci), who has moved with her widowed mother from Los Angeles to the idyllic town of Wheaton in the Northwest.

She’s quickly rescued from boredom by Jody Salerno (Chlumsky), a spirited tomboy who makes regular pilgrimages to the woods in order to escape her drunken mother’s abusive boyfriend (David Keith).

Together the two girls, making like a distaff Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, go off in search of a mysterious gold-filled mountain, guided by the spirit of a legendary female miner called Molly Morgan.

The film does serve as an ideal rites-of-passage vehicle for Chlumsky and Ricci, who have undergone significant physical maturity since their prior movie outings. Both, but particularly Ricci, have made the challenging child-to-adult acting transition smoothly and are assured promising futures.

But even they can’t always bring credibility to the stilted dialogue that wouldn’t sound convincing in any era, let alone the 1980s.

In his American feature directorial bow, Australia’s Kevin James Dobson (he’s directing the sequel to “The Thorn Birds”) never manages to inject any sufficient big-screen oomph to distinguish “Gold Diggers” from a typical TV outing, although he does manage to get maximum effect from the lush scenery of Nelson and Pemberton, British Columbia.

It’s about the only thing in the picture that opts for a natural effect.

MEMO: These sidebars appeared with the story: “GOLD DIGGERS: THE SECRET OF BEAR MOUNTAIN” Location: North Division and Showboat cinemas Credits: Directed by Kevin James Dobson; starring Christina Ricci, Anna Chlumsky, Polly Draper, Brian Kerwin, Diana Scarwid and David Keith Running time: Rating: PG

ANOTHER VIEW Here’s what another critic says about “Gold Diggers:” Tara Haelle/Fort Worth Star-Telegram: “Gold Diggers” is ideal for young audiences, but parents need not worry about growing bored. The jokes are truly funny, and Chlumsky’s and Ricci’s honest portrayals keep the audience riveted.

These sidebars appeared with the story: “GOLD DIGGERS: THE SECRET OF BEAR MOUNTAIN” Location: North Division and Showboat cinemas Credits: Directed by Kevin James Dobson; starring Christina Ricci, Anna Chlumsky, Polly Draper, Brian Kerwin, Diana Scarwid and David Keith Running time: Rating: PG

ANOTHER VIEW Here’s what another critic says about “Gold Diggers:” Tara Haelle/Fort Worth Star-Telegram: “Gold Diggers” is ideal for young audiences, but parents need not worry about growing bored. The jokes are truly funny, and Chlumsky’s and Ricci’s honest portrayals keep the audience riveted.


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