August 25, 2003 12:00 PM

Brittany Murphy, Dakota Fanning

A well-meaning comedy-drama about two troubled rich girls who teach each other to cope with life, Uptown Girls is so flimsy that there’s really no point working oneself into a lather knocking it. Sure, it’s sentimental twaddle, exists in a never-never land of Manhattan’s superrich and can make a cynical grown-up cringe. But the adolescent girls targeted by the movie will doubtless find it heartwarming and moving. I probably would have at their age as well, and that, in the end, is what counts.

Murphy is Molly, a whiny, immature heiress who learns shortly after turning 22 that her money manager has filched her fortune. Forced to work, she reluctantly signs on as nanny to Ray (Fanning, see page 75), a bossy 8-year-old whose dad lies in a coma and whose record-exec mom (Heather Locklear) is largely absent. Though these two princesses despise each other at first, they soon–let’s all say “awww”–learn to act their respective ages. Murphy, whose performances often give off a whiff of desperation, carries on here as if there was an Oscar in the offing. Fanning, a prim little miss, maintains her dignity amidst all the hysterics. (PG-13) BOTTOM LINE: Strains to be adorable

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