The leading lady was irresistible and the script touchingly quirky, yet the 1991 hit My Girl had people talking for another reason altogether-in the film, kid megastar Macaulay Culkin got killed off. Child psychologists were air- dropped to comfort young viewers disturbed by the on-screen demise of their hero, and the daytime chatfests buzzed with talk about how to teach children to deal with the dreaded D-word. The best advice would have been to wait for the release of My Girl 2 (Columbia, PG). While the original was obsessed with death, the sequel is an eloquent, if overly sentimental, affirmation of life. With sensitivity and great appeal, it shows moviegoers of all ages that life does go on, thanks to the legacies left by those who are gone. In the film, two years have passed since Thomas J. Sennett's fatal bee stings. It's 1974, and 13-year-old Vada Sultenfuss (Anna Chlumsky) is experiencing the awkwardness of puberty without the help of her best friend. Vada's dad (Dan Aykroyd), the town undertaker, has married Shelly (Jamie Lee Curtis), the cosmetologist who came to work for him after mistaking his funeral parlor for a beauty parlor. Now Shelly is pregnant, and Vada is feeling a bit displaced. When Vada is given a school assignment to write about someone she admires but has never met, she decides to trace the history of her mother, who died while giving birth to Vada. Her research takes her to Los Angeles, her mom's birthplace, where she stays with her uncle Phil (Richard Masur), his live-in girlfriend, Rose (Christine Ebersole), and Rose's teenage son, Nick (Austin O'Brien), who accompanies Vada on her mission. Along the way, Vada finds out her mother wasn't perfect and meets a man from the past who makes her wonder whose girl she really is. At risk of sounding sexist, this is a ''girl movie''-Sleepless in Seattle for the training-bra set. Only this time it's the heroine who travels 3,000 miles to discover her roots, finding love-and herself-in the process. Although the plot stretches the limits of credibility at times, it's hard to find fault with a story that, in a movie world dominated by weapons and superheroes, focuses on emotion rather than action. Chlumsky has no trouble carrying the movie sans Mac. In fact, the young Carly Simon look-alike is so good as the bright and sensitive Vada, she may be locked into this role until they have to change the series' title to My Woman. O'Brien, who starred with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the bomb Last Action Hero, is little more than a prop for Vada's blossoming interest in the opposite sex. In My Girl 2, none of the male characters are as strong, as deep, or as interesting as their female counterparts. While Vada's dad is lovable and well-intentioned, he's clueless about his daughter's burgeoning adolescence. It's Shelly (who looks like she's carrying a basketball under her clothes) who nurtures Vada, offering her support and guidance when she needs it most. My Girl 2 doesn't quite merit the A+ Vada ultimately receives on her school report, but as a coming-of-age story for family-movie day, it clearly surpasses the original and earns a solid A.