Warner Bros. // 2005 // 86 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // February 15th, 2011
Would you stand strong for your beliefs -- even if it might mean losing your best friend?
As I alluded to in my review of Kit Kittredge: An American Girl, the American Girl company started in the mid-'80s as a doll company that grew into a multimedia giant, with retail locations in upscale shopping centers, numerous books, and, as of Kit Kittredge, a theatrical feature. They achieved such dominance by producing quality products that didn't feel the need to talk down to young girls. Instead, they offer role models wrapped inside of important historical lessons. This movie was part of the first crop of made-for-TV American Girl films, and the Felicity: An American Girl Adventure: Deluxe Edition re-release adds a new featurette to the previous disc's extras.
The basic American Girl formula is to take a pre-teen girl, 10 or so, and put her at some historically important time and place. With the benefit of hindsight, our young heroine is put on the side of right and learns valuable lessons as the film progresses. In the case of Felicity, the titular heroine is a young woman in Colonial Williamsburg who's enamored of a horse who is being mistreated by its owner. In the background, her family and friends are being divided over the question of independence from the British, and Felicity must struggle to keep the peace.
Barbie (Mattel's other big girl's toy) is popular because she can be anyone: there's Dr. Barbie, Rock Star Barbie, and even Queen Elizabeth Barbie. American Girls dolls take the opposite route and make each of their dolls very specific to a time and place. However, that specific time and place is filtered through the eyes and ears of a young girl. This provides role models for the target audience, and shows that even though there may be hundreds of years of history separating them, young girls of today face many of the same problems that those of former times had to overcome. I say all this because I admire the American Girl project for providing plucky, courageous, and wholesome characters for young women to look up to. Felicity: An American Girl Adventure is a perfect example. Our young heroine must deal with the abuse of an animal, struggle with what's expected of her because she's a girl, and face the consequences of her increasingly divided town due to the impending Revolutionary War. She does all this with warmth, good cheer, and a generosity of spirit. The fact that the film may spark interest in colonial history is just a wonderful bonus.
Of course the film is wonderfully made for the younger crowd, but the adults in the room will have to cut Felicity a little slack if they want to enjoy it with their young ones. Check all your cynicism at the door. Felicity is, of course, the perfect young girl in almost every respect (especially by contemporary as opposed to colonial standards), and the line between the "good" guys and the "bad" guys is drawn with very broad strokes. In the film's defense, it's well shot and pretty to look at. Basically, the film isn't a total chore to sit through as an adult, especially if the film only gets pulled out around Christmastime.
Felicity was originally released back in 2005 (and could be found in a standalone version as well as a box set with the Samantha and Molly movies). It was a pretty decent release for a made-for-TV movie designed to appeal to young girls. That disc has essentially been ported over for this Deluxe Edition, with the addition of a pair of bonus features. Felicity aims for a bright and cheerful presentation, and the video on this disc nails that feeling. Just like the last disc, it's soft in places, but overall the video suits the film. The stereo audio is equally bright, and the dialogue is easy to hear.
The older extras include "On Set with Felicity," which visits the set to talk with the young actress playing Felicity, and "Felicity's Williamsburg," which takes the young women in the movie on a tour of Colonial Williamsburg. That theme is continued in the first of the new features, which is an additional tour of Colonial Williamsburg. Finally, the disc includes a short history of Felicity which looks to me like a commercial but young girls might enjoy.
If you've got the previous disc already, the new special features total less than 20 minutes so probably aren't worth upgrading for. If, however, you have a young girl in your life who likes horses or history, then this film provides enough of both to keep her interested.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated