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KIDS ON FILM

The Gang's All Here in New Chapter of 'Baby-Sitters Club'

August 24, 1995|LYNN SMITH | Lynn Smith is a staff writer for the Times' Life & Style section.

In "The Baby-Sitters Club," the seven industrious girls from the popular book series spend their summer operating a kids' day camp while trying to cope with one another's problems--the secret return of a deadbeat dad, a much older boyfriend, passing a science test and rival girlfriends. (Rated PG)

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The girls came in pairs and groups, some in cutoffs, some in mascara and eye liner, all with images of the main characters firmly in mind: Kristy, the tomboy; Stacey, the clotheshorse; Claudia, the artist; Mary Anne, the shy beauty; Dawn, the environmentalist; Jessi, the dancer; and Mallory, the writer.

Cindy Islas, 10, of Garden Grove, and her cousin Lisa Islas, 12, of Lake Forest, left as satisfied as if they'd just seen them all come to life in a new episode of the early adolescent soap opera set in Stoneybrook, Conn. The girls, with matching ponytails down their backs, had each read dozens of the books (which now top 200), and were happy to have new information about Kristy's father.

"In the first book, it said that her dad left her and he flaked out when her little brother was almost born and she was really shocked about it," Lisa said.

Added Cindy, "This was the first time we, like, saw him come back to Stoneybrook." Lisa: "He's, like, scum."

In the movie, Kristy's bio-dad (played by Peter Horton) is an itinerant sportswriter with a history of broken promises who asks her to keep his return a secret until he settles in. But the deception drives a wedge between Kristy, her parents, and her friends.

Another club member, Stacey, faces a similar moral dilemma when she avoids telling Luca, a 17-year-old visiting Swiss boy, that she is only 13.

Some girls said it's a realistic problem. "Sometimes they say older guys don't like younger girls, but that sometimes happens, you know?" said Bibi Monfared, 14, of Laguna Hills.

But, like a few other older girls, Bibi had some bones to pick with the movie--particularly the way the girls managed to come through for one another, stay "friends forever" and be successful entrepreneurs on top of everything.

"When you're watching the movie, it's like they have all this time on their hands. Like, what about the rest of their lives, you know?"

The movie was "cute," but "it wasn't, like, true," Bibi said. "I don't think girls are like that goody-goody toward each other."

Bree Hanson, 14, of Dove Canyon, who's read about 50 books in the series, said the movie was OK, "but they should have focused in on a lot of other things, like some of the other girls [besides Kristy]."

It also could have used more action, beyond preschoolers throwing food and a rival falling off a tree, she said.

But anyone (i.e., boys) who thinks the movie is stupid is missing a lot, she said. "There are three guys in it, Luca, Logan and Alan, and they're, like, pushing each other around and having fun. I think guys would go see it because the girls are in it and they'd be, like, going 'Oh, isn't she cute?' and 'Which one do you think is the cutest?'

"Guys do that a lot," she said.

Her brother Dain, 11, enjoyed it, he said. His favorite part was when Luca and Stacey go to New York without any apparent supervision (a situation the film manages to pull off without a hint of salaciousness) and argue when the older Luca discovers Stacey is only 13.

Many girls said they tried but were unsuccessful in forming their own "Baby-Sitters Club." In one case, the clubhouse fell apart in the rain; in another, the friends argued.

Bree said that many clubs have ultimately failed because people move and "go and get more mature."

In reality, she said, girls hardly ever get together in clubs. "They mostly hang out at movie theaters."

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