Warner Bros. // 2005 // 86 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Steve Evans (Retired) // March 27th, 2006
An American Girl adventure.
Wholesome, quality entertainment for girls, especially girls who love horses.
Colonial Williamsburg -- Ten-year-old Felicity (newcomer Shailene Woodley) befriends a beautiful, untamed mare named Penny. The young girl resolves to train Penny and free the horse from a cruel owner. Soon Felicity and Penny find adventure as the colonists debate whether to revolt from the British monarchy. Felicity's father believes in independence, while her grandfather and her best friend Elizabeth support the king. These conflicting loyalties challenge the stability of the colony and even threaten to divide Felicity from her friends. She seeks the advice of her mother (Marcia Gay Harden, Pollock), but Felicity ultimately keeps her own counsel.
As Christmas draws near, this American girl struggles to hold her family and friends together, clinging to the simple belief that love and friendship can transcend the gathering political storm.
This is a made-for-television film drawn from the wildly popular American Girl series of books and expensive collectible dolls. The idea behind the collection is to combine history and culture with playtime so that young girls might be inspired by tales of young women who helped shape the nation in ways great and small. The Chicago-based company has earned a reputation for producing quality products that deliver entertainment and education in equal measure. The feature was originally broadcast on the WB cable channel.
Branching into film production seemed a natural idea and the American Girl standard of excellence comes through in this picture. Beautiful cinematography and costumes complement a solid ensemble cast who perform with sincerity and conviction. There is the added selling point of horses. The result is an uplifting production that held my daughters in rapt attention -- for three viewings on as many consecutive wintry days. Did I mention the movie features horses? Just for variety, we took a Felicity break to work on horsey coloring books, then supplemented this activity with a command screening of National Velvet.
On the strength of this one film, my girls now want to visit Colonial Williamsburg and learn a bit of history. The brochures should arrive any day now. Truth be told, I had expected urgent pleadings for a Felicity doll, so their desire to visit a real historical site rather than persuade dad to buy another toy came as a pleasant surprise.
Technically, this is a good if unspectacular disc. Images appear surprisingly soft in bright, springtime exterior shots (I had expected just the reverse -- soft interior scenes with candle lighting, since this is a period piece). But the target audience is not likely to notice or care about such things that preoccupy cynical film critics. Extras include a making-of featurette and a child-friendly tour of Colonial Williamsburg.
American Girl products are pricey. And habit forming.
As entertainment suitable for everyone in the family, I have no reservations about recommending American Girl products, especially those that feature pretty horses.
Felicity and her horse are free to roam and inspire young girls with enough money to buy this disc -- or catch a rerun on cable.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* On the Set with Felicity Featurette
* Felicity's Tour of Williamsburg
* DVD-ROM Weblink to American Girl Online
* Official Site