When her parents (Allison Janney, Peter Gallagher) divorce, Halley Martin (Mandy Moore) becomes even more wary of relationships, despite the attentions of Macon (Trent Ford). The inane upcoming nuptials of sister Ashley (Mary Catherine Garrison) aren't helping matters. Meanwhile, best friend Scarlett (Alexandra Holden) has become pregnant with the child of her boyfriend, who tragically died of a heart condition.

Director Claire Kilner gives this oozingly sentimental chick flick a lightly feminist sensibility and sensitivity that keep you watching, even as you roll your eyes at the woozy peregrinations of its none-too-original script. (It's like Sixteen Candles, sans laughs.) How to Deal has been given a handsome production, set in a verdant suburban paradise of lovely, cozy homes on tree-lined streets. Best of all, it's well-cast, with a gallery of fresh talent.

Janney, looking like an addled Garbo, brings her wry, dry talent, which goes a long way to leavening the syrupy proceedings. She's filled with anger at having been dumped by her husband for a younger bimbo, but she may just be angry with herself for even taking up with that moron of a superannuated disc jockey in the first place. (Peter Gallagher gives a particularly grotesque performance, matched by those eyebrows of his, which are now officially out of control.) Garrison has an appealing dippiness, and Holden is likewise a bit of a dingbat, but with a sweetly sincere belief in romance that you can easily buy. Veteran Nina Foch delightfully shows up as Halley's pot-smoking grandma, and if her material isn't exactly sparkling, her spirits certainly are. Husky-voiced Ford, despite the hair in the face and goofy hats which Hollywood always imposes on its romantic juvenile leads, has a breezy charm. (Watch your back, Ashton Kutcher!) That leaves the preening, posing, pouting star of this little diddle to consider. To her I say, Missy, I knew Molly Ringwald and, believe me, you are no Molly Ringwald.

--David Noh