Rita Kempley in the Washington Post comments that the movie "is hardly out of the driveway before director Penny Marshall loses control. The vehicle sputters along as if somebody'd put sugar in its tank and finally stalls out in the middle of one of heroine Drew Barrymore's many crying jags."
Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times thinks that the movie could have been a contender. "Buried under the miscalculations, the shamelessness, the off-putting and inappropriate broadness are sporadically visible souvenirs of a good project gone bad, hints of the unusual, bittersweet story that got away," he writes.
And Gary Thompson in the Philadelphia Daily News calls it "the first four-hankie movie -- two to plug up the ears, two to cover the eyes."
But Claudia Puig in USA Today suggests that the film isn't all that bad. The movie, she says, "should please audiences with a story that draws viewers in, even if it unfolds a bit too conveniently."
And Philip Wuntch in the Dallas Morning News is also willing to say a few nice things about it, to wit: "Riding in Cars With Boys flows with strong individual moments that help the patchy screenplay achieve a sense of unity."
And Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times gives it a thumbs up. "A film like this is refreshing and startling in the way it cuts loose from formula and shows us confused lives we recognize," he concludes