Fox // 2003 // 98 Minutes // Rated G
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // September 30th, 2005
Harmless as a neutered grasshopper.
In this G-rated movie (wow, I didn't even know they made those anymore!) young Ociee Nash (newcomer Skyler Day) has spent her entire 19th-century life with her father and two brothers on their farm. Since her mother passed away, Ociee has had no female influence her life, and knows only the grit and grime and manner-free living that only an existence slinging cow manure with men can provide.
Ociee's father (Keith Carradine, Woolly Boys) recognizes this and, much to Ociee's chagrin, insists that she spend some time with her Aunt Mamie (Mare Winningham). So Ociee hops the next train to Asheville or something, an idyllic town in North Carolina. And it's not long after she leaves her homestead that this little girl starts making ripples: She coins a famous phrase for the president of the United States, gives the Wright brothers a lesson in aerodynamics, and dislodges pebbles from horse hooves. And before her adventures are done, she will help her spinster aunt find love, reunite with a gypsy friend, and, of course, save her best friend's life in a house fire.
The Adventures of Ociee Nash covers all the necessary bases of wholesome family entertainment, yet falls short of being notable. Let's run down the Family Movie Plot Point checklist:
* Cute, precocious little lead. Check.
* Large, intimidating ogre/ ex-con/ hillbilly outcast/ gypsy/ mentally challenged ex-professional wrestler who turns out to have a good heart. Check.
* Uneducated yet loving father. Check.
* Juxtaposition of a rough-around-the-edges urchin type and upper-class society. Check.
* Horses. Check.
* Cute, precocious lead playing romantic matchmaker with surprising effectiveness. Check.
* Feel-good score that may or may not have been lifted from a Cialis commercial. Check.
* Climactic earthquake/ fire/ tornado/ well rescue/ battle against poachers. Check.
So yeah, all the ingredients are present for a tasty, nutritious helping of living room entertainment, but in this case, the whole is slightly less than the sum of its parts. The Adventures of Ociee Nash is lacking the infusion of charm and wit that would elevate it above the generic.
Perhaps that's because the film feels so episodic. Ociee goes on her travels and events just happen around her. She befriends a gypsy and meets the president and helps the Wright brothers and gets into a fight with another girl and helps her aunt find love and so on and so forth. This workmanlike progression renders a feeling of detachment to the film. Add to that the forgettable writing and some subpar acting (Skyler Day is adorable and has her moments, but she needs to work on her screen charisma), and the result is a family movie that neither sets the standard nor falls markedly below it. It's just standard. All that having been said, I don't want to discount the undeniable decency of this film. It's not a creative tour de force, but it's inoffensive, and the kids -- especially the girls -- may like it fine.
Fox's DVD treatment is straightforward, the highlights of which reside in the technical department. A full-screen and an anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer are both included, with the hat tip going to, of course, the widescreen. The video quality is excellent, boasting sharp details and strong colors. This is a crisp transfer. The 5.1 audio mix is strong too, despite the lack of any real dynamic moments. Only trailers for extras.
What could have been a noteworthy, charming piece of family fare is sapped by a shortage of, well, charm. Nutritious, yes, but not entirely satisfying. The court dislikes being a curmudgeon, but if finds the accused guilty. Oh, all right, we'll grant probation.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Rated G