Pat adages and melodramatic drivel are offered up as greaser gospel in "The Outsiders," Francis Ford Coppola's faithful adaptation of the young adults' bible by novelist S.E. Hinton. Hinton was still a Tulsa teen when she wrote the best seller (4 million copies in seven languages) in the mid-1960s. Her brain wasn't mucked up with adult equivocation, so she didn't get into those confusing gray zones. Great for her, but not for Coppola, who turns this long-awaited story into baffling mush. The editors didn't help either -- it's like dogs chewed on it. The main characters, greasers the wrong side of Tulsa's tracks, are played by some great-lookers. Matt Dillon, one particularly sexy kid, costars as an older delinquent who helps 14-year-old Ponyboy (C. Thomas Howell) and his pal Johnny (Ralph Macchio) out of a murder wrap. They're sweet kids who are persecuted by Tulsa preppies called "socs," until Johnny kills one and the two escape to the country. They spend an idyllic week in an old barn, with cute bunnies, mice, a raccoon and an owl. They look at sunsets together and read "Gone With the Wind." And then they start quoting poesy about leaves of spring and gold and green. It's rather sweet and wildly romantic, the way the then-15-year-old Hinton might have imagined it. But nobody talks like that, not even Rod McKuen. It's also strange that there are no greaser girls. The only women in the film are two "socs," one of whom (Diane Lane) befriends Ponyboy and Johnny. Her character is poorly drawn and negligibly treated along with the rest of her caste, fuzzy fiends in chinos one and all. The war between the classes ends in a night rumble around a big bonfire. Coppola and company go for an Indian motif. The score tom-toms it up, and the pummeling teens are supposed to be primal men or something. It's silly filmmaking, the sort of thing you don't expect from a master like Coppola, who seems to be stuck in a second childhood. Please, please, get it worked out, Mr. Coppola, and grow back up. THE OUTSIDERS -- At area theaters.