February 13, 1995 12:00 PM

Whoopi Goldberg, Mary-Louise Parker, Drew Barrymore

Sorry to say, but big roles for women do not necessarily a rewarding movie make. Boys on the Side, which follows the growing friendship between three women (Goldberg, Parker and Barrymore), is a draggy, mawkish affair. Its big goober of wisdom? Love is someone who’ll stand by you when times are tough.

At least the three stars seem to be relishing their roles. Goldberg manages to be both cuttingly funny and restrained as a lesbian in love with a straight friend; Parker is all pale shakes and sudden bursts of humor as a woman growing ever sicker with AIDS; and Barrymore whoops it up amusingly as a nymphomaniacal nitwit who brains her junkie boyfriend with a baseball bat and then, pregnant and on the lam, falls for a cop.

Boys aspires to the loose-jointed rhythms of a road picture and, in its early scenes, succeeds. Soon, though, it is trying too hard to get you to laugh and cry, and toward the end, when the syrup is poured on extra thick, you will find yourself groaning and checking your watch instead. (R)

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