THERE ARE two big crises in a woman's life: menopause and not having a date for the high school prom. Molly Ringwald, 17, contends with the latter in the blushing romance "Pretty in Pink," a slight prom comedy from John Hughes, producer of such teen tales as "The Breakfast Club."
"Pretty" is a sweet but shallow story of the conflict between haves and have-nots at a Chicago high school, with Ringwald as a lower-middle-class "zoid" who falls for Andrew McCarthy, a "richie" from the preppie elite. Basically, girl meets boy, loses boy, then gets boy back in time for the ball in this "Cinderella" of the '80s.
Ringwald and McCarthy, in parts that would have suited Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue 20 years ago, take us back to clean teen movies. With its frothy title and pure- hearted heroine, "Pretty" is a forerunner in the trend away from snickering sexploitive teenage comedies that were so roundly rejected by young movie-goers last year.
It is to movies what "Cosby" is to television, a step back to a safer, and probably nonexistent, world of organza prom gowns and chaste kisses on the stoop. The heroine is a good student with a part-time job who doesn't eat eggs (she's cholesterol-conscious) or drink beer. And there is absolutely no doubt that she will eschew heavy petting, while the "richies" are loose wantons painted with broad, sloppy strokes.
The heroine, who dresses like a punk librarian, is savaged by "richie" girls who don't like her retro style. The taunting is so sexually vehement that it seems implausible, coming from young girls. But then, a man did write the script. Ringwald also doesn't have a best girlfriend, which is unheard of among giggly adolescents who always travel arm in arm.
Her closest friends are another "zoid," played by energetic comic Jon Cryer; Annie Potts as an older woman who lends Ringwald her prom dress from the '60s; and miscast Harry Dean Stanton as her unemployed steelworker dad.
Basically, the movie lacks luster, and that quintessentially adolescent passion that fueled "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." There's no punch to the pacing, and the players, though pleasant, are uninspired by Howard Deutch, who is directing his first feature film after doing videos, including one from Ringwald's second movie, "Sixteen Candles."
The happy ending, changed to suit the tastes of preview audiences, steals the movie's potential pathos, and turns teen trauma into so much gooey, rose-colored mush.
PRETTY IN PINK (PG-13) -- At area theaters.