My Girl (film)

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This article is about the 1991 film. For the 2003 Thai film, see Fan Chan.
My Girl
A girl holding her hand on her head and laughing, and a boy laughing in the background
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Howard Zieff
Produced by Brian Grazer
Written by Laurice Elehwany
Music by James Newton Howard
Cinematography Paul Elliot
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • November 27, 1991 (1991-11-27)
Running time
102 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $17 million[1]
Box office $59.5 million[1]

My Girl is a 1991 American tragicomedy film directed by Howard Zieff and written by Laurice Elehwany. The film, starring Macaulay Culkin and Anna Chlumsky in her feature film debut, depicts the coming-of-age of a young girl who faces many different emotional highs and lows. Also starring Dan Aykroyd and Jamie Lee Curtis.

A book based on the script was written by Patricia Hermes in 1991.[2]

A sequel, My Girl 2, was released in 1994.


In the summer of 1972 in Madison, Pennsylvania, Vada Sultenfuss is an 11-year-old tomboyish girl and a hypochondriac. Vada's father, Harry Sultenfuss, is an awkward widower who does not understand his daughter, so he constantly ignores her. His profession as a funeral director, for which the Sultenfuss' residence serves as a funeral parlor, has led Vada to develop an obsession with death. Vada regularly tends to her invalid grandmother Gramoo, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease and whose wandering mind likewise affects Vada. Harry's brother Phil, who lives nearby, also stops by frequently to help out the family.

Vada frequently goes to see Dr. Welty, who assures her that she is not sick and that she has no chicken bone stuck in her throat.

Vada hangs out with her best friend Thomas J. Sennett, an unpopular boy her age who is allergic to "everything." However, other girls tease the two thinking they are more than just friends.

Vada's summer begins well. She befriends Shelly DeVoto, the new make-up artist at her father's funeral parlor, who provides her with some much needed guidance. She is also infatuated with her fifth grade school teacher, Mr. Bixler, and hears about an adult writing class he is teaching during the summer. Vada steals some money from the cookie jar in Shelly's motorhome to cover the cost of the class. When advised to write about what is in her soul, Vada fears that she killed her mother, who died two days after giving birth to her. Soon things start to fall apart.

Harry and Shelly start dating, which begins to affect Vada's attitude towards Shelly. One night, Vada follows Harry and Shelly to a bingo game and brings Thomas J. along to disrupt it. On the fourth of July, when Shelly's ex-husband Danny arrives to try and take the motorhome, Vada hopes that he is there to take Shelly back. Vada becomes shocked when Harry and Shelly announce their engagement at a carnival, which she contemplates into running away with Thomas J.

Vada is starting to see changes within herself, as she is running around the house yelling that she is hemorrhaging. Shelly politely explains to Vada that her first period is a completely natural process. As Vada realizes this only occurs with girls, she doesn't want to see Thomas J., who happens to come by shortly afterward. A couple of days later though, Vada and Thomas J. are sitting under a tree by the river, where they share an innocent first kiss.

One day in the woods, Vada and Thomas J. come across to finding a beehive hanging from a tree, which Thomas J. decides to knock down. Vada loses her mood ring in the process, so they start looking for it. But the search is cut short, as the bees start swarming from the broken hive, which results in Vada and Thomas J. running away.

Thomas J. later returns by himself and finds the ring. But unfortunately for him, it is too late to escape, as he is stung by the bees from the detached hive and dies, due to being allergic to them. Thomas J. also loses his glasses in the process.

Harry is left to deliver the tragic news to Vada, which makes her devastated so much that she doesn't even leave her bedroom.

As Vada attends Thomas J.'s funeral, her emotions become so strong that she runs away. Vada arrives at Mr. Bixler's house and discovers that he is about to get married to someone else. She runs over to the tree where her and Thomas J. were sitting near before to reflect on what has happened.

When Vada returns home, everyone is relieved to see her ok, including Shelly, whom Vada starts to accept as her future stepmother.

Vada's grief manages to mend the rift between her and her father. Harry explains to Vada that her mother's death wasn't her fault, mothers dying from childbirth isn't anyone's fault and things like that happen without explanation.

Towards the end of summer, Vada and her father see Mrs. Sennett, who still struggles with her son's death. She gives Vada her mood ring back which Thomas J. has found and Vada gives Mrs. Sennett some comfort.

On the last day of the writing class, Vada reads a poem she wrote about the loss of her best friend.


  • Dan Aykroyd as Harry Sultenfuss: Vada's father and the manager of Sultenfuss' funeral parlor in Madison, Pennsylvania.
  • Jamie Lee Curtis as Shelly DeVoto: The new make-up artist at the funeral home. She is an experienced cosmetologist from Detroit, Michigan and later Harry's fiancée.
  • Macaulay Culkin as Thomas J. Sennett: A fragile young boy who is allergic to "everything." He is also Vada's best friend and neighbor.
  • Anna Chlumsky as Vada Sultenfuss: The central character. A tomboyish girl, full of medical issues, including a chicken bone lodged in her throat.
  • Richard Masur as Phil Sultenfuss: Harry's brother and Vada's uncle. He works with Harry and gives him advice when Harry starts dating Shelly.
  • Griffin Dunne as Mr. Jake Bixler: Vada's fifth grade teacher whom she has a crush on. He teaches an adult poetry writing class during the summer.
  • Ann Nelson as Gramoo Sultenfuss: Vada's absent-minded grandmother and Harry and Phil's mother. She suffers from Alzheimer's disease and spends a majority of the time in a chair in the living room.


Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives a score of 50% based on reviews from 14 critics.[3] Roger Ebert gave the film 3.5 stars out of 4.[4] Variety wrote, "Plenty of shrewd commercial calculation went into concocting the right sugar coating for this story of an 11-year-old girl's painful maturation, but [the] chemistry seems right."[5]


The soundtrack of the film contains several 1960s and 1970s pop hits in addition to the title song (by The Temptations), including "Wedding Bell Blues" (The 5th Dimension), "If You Don't Know Me by Now" (Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes), "Bad Moon Rising" (Creedence Clearwater Revival), "Good Lovin'" (The Rascals), and "Saturday in the Park" (Chicago). When Vada gets upset, she plugs her ears and sings "Do Wah Diddy Diddy", the Manfred Mann version of which is also included on the soundtrack album. In addition, Vada and Thomas J. play "The Name Game" and sing "Witch Doctor" in the film, and Vada has posters of the Broadway Musical Hair, The Carpenters, and Donny Osmond on her bedroom wall.

Cultural references[edit]

  • In the film Accepted, after Justin Long's character performs a cover of The Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop", he lists "not crying at the end of My Girl" as one of the things he cannot do.
  • Thomas J.'s death is referenced in the The OC episode entitled "The Heights". After crying during an intense conversation with ex-girlfriend Marissa, Luke later tells her that he hasn't cried like that "since Macaulay Culkin died in My Girl".[6]
  • The end of heavy metal band Anthrax's 1993 album Sound of White Noise contains samples of Vada's teacher Mr. Bixler saying, "Be dangerous and unpredictable... and make a lot of noise". Anthrax singer John Bush also sings this exact phrase on Sound of White Noise b-side track "Poison My Eyes" which was released on the Last Action Hero soundtrack in 1993.
  • The funeral scene in which Vada cries, "Put on his glasses! He can't see without his glasses!" over Thomas J.'s body is constantly referenced and played during the popular Philadelphia morning show Preston and Steve whenever Preston is unable to read something.


  1. ^ a b "My Girl". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2015-06-15. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ "My Girl (1991)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 2015-06-15. 
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger (1991-11-27). "My Girl". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2015-06-15 – via 
  5. ^ "Review: 'My Girl'". Variety. 1991. Retrieved 2015-06-15. 
  6. ^ The O.C. Season 1 "The Heights" November 5, 2003 The Heights (The O.C.)

External links[edit]