RICH KIDS -- AMC Carrollton, AMC Skyline, Roth's Tysons Corner, Springfield Cinema, Tenley Circle, Wheaton Plaza and White Flint.

Just six months ago, an audicious attempt was made to sell a film called "A Little Romance" with a pre-release advertising campaign announcing that audiences had already taken the pictrue to their hearts. It didn't work. The public was not fooled into liking a poor film by being told that it had already committed itself.

But the idea that the chance was worth taking probably came from the belief that audiences always find films that are based on the Child as Noble Savage theme to be "heartwarming."

The notion that liaisons involving pubescent lovers represent truer love than those of grown-ups doen't seem to need a shred of evidence to survive. (Romeo and Juliet didn't have a long-enough marriage to prove anything.)

"A Little Romance" was about an affair between two kids in Paris, the girl being the daughter of rich, jet-setting Americans. Its point of view was that childish sex was pure and beautiful while the same activity performed by adults was corrupt.

That basic story has been filmed again, as "Rich Kids." In this example, the young couple consist of the 12-year-old children of broken homes on valuable New York City real estate.

"Why can't they be like us?" the girl complains about their parents. "Maybe some day we'll figure it out." But the boy replies, "No -- because then we'll be parents and we'll be messed up like them."

Growing up, in other words, is itself evil. When an assortment of parents, stepparents and their lovers is horrified at discovering the young couple taking a bubble bath together after some simulated and possibly also real sex, one is supposed to believe that the adults are trying to ruin something too fine for them to understand.

"Rich Kids" is done with more subtlety that "A Little Romance," including more effective satire on the adults. It follows the quasi-documentary style, now in vogue among "advance" filmmakers, of examining different aspects of a subject by an accumulation of scenes rather than by use of a plot device. Divorce is explored by seeing the girl's parents' separation, the boy's mother's remarriage, the boy's father's dating patterns, and so on.

Some of it is funny and some touching, and the low-key, realistic writing (by Judith Ross) and acting (by Trini Alvarado and Jeremy Levy as the children, and Kathryn Walker, John Lithgow, Terry Kiser, Roberta Maxwell and Paul Dooley as the adults) make many episodes seem valid.

But when the children talk them over, with their superior moral sense and vaster understanding, heart warming is not really the term for them. "Insufferable" would be more like it.