KRISTY McNICHOLS is in the cast for "Just The Way You Are": The former little darling gets plastered to hide her leg brace as the handicapped heroine of this diverting, forgivably manipulative romantic comedy.

McNichols, recently recovered from a nervous breakdown, successfully restructures her character after a year away. She's delightful as concert flutist Susan Berlanger, a witty young woman who gamely faces a series of humiliations and rejections because she is lame. "Just once I'd like to know it was bad breath," she explains.

Thus Susan takes a vacation from her problems at a French ski resort, where a bad break doesn't mean a lifetime of disability, but a few months as a "gimp." Better yet, Susan's cast proves to be an aphrodisiac. McNichols has five handsome costars in all, but Michael Ontkean is the one who makes her eyes shine. He plays a skiing photographer who urges her to enter a race for injured skiers. They make a wholesome pair in what is basically a P-G affair.

Director Edouard Molinaro, best known for "La Cage Aux Folles," assembles the halves of the film -- scenes shot in December '82 and those shot in January '84 -- without noticeable problems in continuity. It's a charming job, but there are gaffes and improbabilities. For one, Andre Dussolier, as the suave Rossignol ski heir, takes the couple up in a Ski Dynastar balloon, which is equivalent to the Michelin Man hiring the Goodyear blimp. But it's just hot air, and the movie ain't bad, so what the heck? JUST THE WAY YOU ARE -- At area theaters.