The movie is set in Madison, Pennsylvania, in the summer of 1972. Vada Sultenfuss (Anna Chlumsky) is a 11-year-old girl and a hypochondriac. Vada's father, Harry Sultenfuss (Dan Aykroyd), is an awkward widower who does not seem to understand his daughter, and as a result, constantly ignores her. His profession as a funeral director, in which the Sultenfuss' residence is also a funeral parlor, has led Vada to develop an obsession with death as well as disease. Vada also thinks that she killed her own mother, since her mother died giving birth to her. She regularly tends to her invalid grandmother (Ann Nelson), who suffers from Alzheimer's disease. Harry's brother Phil (Richard Masur), who lives nearby, also stops by frequently to help out the family.
Vada is teased by other girls because her best friend, Thomas J. Sennett (Macaulay Culkin), is unpopular and a boy. Their summer adventuresfrom first kiss to last farewellintroduce Vada to the world of adolescence.
Vada's summer begins well. She befriends Shelley Devoto (Jamie Lee Curtis), 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 teacher, Mr. Bixler (Griffin Dunne), and steals some money from Shelley's trailer to attend a summer writing class that he is teaching.
But before long, things start to fall apart. Her father and Shelley start dating and get engaged, she cannot bring herself to tell her father that she has experienced her first menstrual cycle, Thomas J. dies from an allergic reaction to bee stings while looking for Vada's mood ring in the woods, and she finds out that Mr. Bixler is engaged to someone else.
Vada's grief, however, manages to mend the rift between her and her father, she learns that she didn't kill her mom during childbirth (since her father tells her that things like mothers dying in childbirth just happen), and by the end of the movie, Vada has not only managed to deal with her pain and grief, but has also overcome some of her previous issues as well.
"Weeping willow with your tears running down, why do you always weep and frown? Is it because he left you one day? is it because he could not stay? On your branches he would swing, do you long for the happiness that day would bring? He found shelter in your shade. You thought his laughter would never fade. Weeping willow, stop your tears. There is something to calm you fears. You think death has ripped you forever apart. But I know he'll always be in your heart." -Vada
Vada owns a mood ring. The movie takes place in 1972, but mood rings weren't invented until 1975.
1980s cars visible in the background.
Vada is in her bed talking to her father and he puts a stuffed animal next to her. In the next scene the stuffed animal disappears.
After Vada's teddy bear disappears after her father places it on her pillow.
When Harry is getting dressed for his date with Shelly, his brother comes into the room and messes up his hair. Harry tries to straighten it out, but you can still see it sticking up all over. In the very next shot you can see the hair is perfectly combed as if nothing happened.
When Harry Sultenfuss meets Thomas J's mother at the end of the movie, two girls behind them keep changing their places.
At the bingo hall, the announcer calls B-39, but a few minutes later, the bingo board is shown and B-39 is not lit up.
When Shelly first meets Vada in the house during their conversation Shelly's hair alternates from straight to wavy throughout the scene.
The hook falls out of fish's mouth twice.
The missing bike streamer changes sides.
Revealing mistakes In the scene when Thomas J is stung by the bees, it was a hornets nest on the ground he kicked, but it was clearly honey bees that came out of the hive.