Mixed or average reviews - based on 21 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 5 out of 21
  2. Negative: 3 out of 21
  1. 75
    The film belongs to Phoenix ("To Die For"), who is terrific. He has the gift, shared with his late brother, River, of conveying emotions without pushing them at you. The delicacy of his scenes with Tyler lets you enjoy the film for what it truly is: a heartbreaker.
  2. The veteran Baker anchors the proceedings, and you would like to see more of her character.
  3. 75
    Inventing the Abbotts has the cast and characters to be something special; the script just isn't ambitious enough.
  4. Reviewed by: Emanuel Levy
    An emotionally powerful but extremely old-fashioned coming-of-age saga.
  5. Apart from the script, it's the actors who make this a film worth seeing; all of them look and sometimes even act like real people rather than types or icons, and behind their interactions can be felt the depths of lived experience.
  6. Reviewed by: Angie Errigo
    What lifts this at key moments is the outstanding Phoenix's simpatico performance and we can add to the credit side happy casting that for once has assembled actresses and actors who really do resemble each other and present plausible siblings.
  7. Best watched as a showcase for radiant young talent.
  8. All the actors caught me up so warmly that I stopped feeling guilty about liking this corny picture. [28 April 1997, p.30]
  9. The only real heat among the group comes from Jennifer Connelly, who, as the bad-girl middle daughter, raises the stakes any time she's on screen.
  10. 50
    The picture is haunted by a story problem: It isn't about anything but itself. There's no sense of life going on in the corners of the frame.
  11. The drama is long on 1950s atmosphere and complicated feelings, short on emotional depth and real psychological insight.
  12. An awkward script, a mannered style and the selection of hill-and-dale Petaluma as a stand-in for an Illinois small town all undermine the film.
  13. This thing can take pride of place in a long tradition of Hollywood howlers.
  14. 50
    The members of its young cast (Jennifer Connelly, Joaquin Phoenix, Liv Tyler) have all shown promise elsewhere, but don't really get to do much but look attractive and troubled here. They may be stars, but as long as they keep treading water in bland stuff like this, the world may never know.
  15. Reviewed by: Michael Sragow
    Drowns in vanilla carnality.
  16. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    A pastel-pretty and oh-so-dull coming of age tale.
  17. Told from younger brother Doug's point of view, Phoenix's voiceover spans the length of the film and winds up making the images that unfold practically redundant.
  18. Reviewed by: Jack Mathews
    Inventing the Abbotts is pointless soap opera, anecdotal and superficial, mixing sibling rivalry, class conflict and tragic romantic entanglements in a style that mimics fictional life in the '50s more than it illuminates what went on.
  19. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    Inventing the Abbotts would be a lot more fun were it a trashy Troy Donahue-Diane McBain vehicle ground out by Warner Bros. in 1960, the year this hormonally motivated high school-college romance mercifully concludes. [4 April 1997, p. 4D]
  20. Too long winded and dull.
  21. Reviewed by: Richard Schickel
    The goofy hysteria of something like "A Summer Place" was infinitely more entertaining and emotionally authentic than the distant smugness of this failed clone. [7 April 1997, p. 76]
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 4 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 1 out of 1
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 1
  3. Negative: 0 out of 1
  1. TerryO.
    Oct 17, 2005
    A collection of talent in a believable ensemble setting makes it more than it might have been. Yes, it is leisurely. Yes, it is too focused inward on a couple of themes. But it is a good looking scrapbook of a movie. How could you not want the best for Tyler and Phoenix, and Mrs. Holt? In the end, 2 out of 3 ain't bad. Kind of like in real life, and that bittersweetness is what , in the end, makes it worth watching and appreciating. Full Review »