Kitt Kittredge: An American Girl
Ah, the American Girl craze. Every year I'd get the catalog. I had my doll all picked out. I wanted Samantha, the one with the brown hair. But while my friends collected them all, I never got one! It's one of the many mysteries of my childhood. Needless to say when I went to see Kitt Kittredge: An American Girl I still carried a slight aversion to the whole franchise. But Kitt Kittredge turned out to be harmless, a family flick with heart and a bit of mystery.
For those of you who may not know, American Girl dolls are based on a series of books with young female protagonists set in different periods of our country's history. They're meant to be learning tools for girls, but they're also meant to be fun toys too. All the dolls come with a myriad of accessories, clothes, and furniture. In other words, girls eat this stuff up. Kitt Kittredge is one of the newer dolls, which makes this movie totally accessible for girls of today.
Set during the Great Depression, it carries a message that material things aren't the most important. It's something that today's toy-and-gadget-hungry kids might benefit from seeing. Kitt Kittredge (Abigail Breslin) is a plucky aspiring reporter that enjoys a cushy life of wealth with her family in Cincinnati. She's more preoccupied with trying to get her name in print than with the country's money issues. But when the Depression looms and Kitt's dad (Chris O’Donnell) gets knocked out of his job at the car dealership, the Kittredges find themselves hitting tough times. Dad goes off the Chicago to try and find work, while mom (Julia Ormond) rents out the spare rooms in their house to boarders.
The colorful assortment of characters that come to stay with the Kittredges include a magician named Mr. Berk (Stanley Tucci), a dithering librarian named Miss Bond (Joan Cusack) and a bubbly dance instructor named Miss Dooley (Jane Krakowski).
In between trying to make ends meet and spending time with the new house guests, Kitt's determined to solve a mystery that has been plaguing the city"”a string of robberies. The papers are claiming the hobos are responsible but Kitt has befriended some of them and just doesn't believe it's true. When her family's last bit of valuable goes missing and her hobo friend Will (Max Thieriot) is framed for the crime, Kitt and her friends Ruthie (Madison Davenport) and Sterling (Zach Mills) race to find out whodunit. Much in the same vein as the recent Nancy Drew movie starring another resourceful heroine played by Emma Roberts, the kids come through and save the day.
The story is sweet and there were some actual surprises"”not everyone is who they appear to be. Though, I was disappointed with Chris O'Donnell's character. The role of Kitt's father was
too saccharine and unrealistic at times. Every time he'd see his daughter he'd have to pick her up and spin her around and he'd frequently spout corny lines like "You can't let it beat ya, kid."Â O'Donnell deserved more to work with. He's also largely absent from most of the film.
Abigail Breslin is a charming little actress as usual, and she doesn't dominate the movie as the poster and title might suggest. There's room for everyone in this flick, and Breslin is given enough"”but not too much"”to do. The supporting roster is unexpected, yet welcome. Stanley Tucci, Joan Cusack and Jane Krakowski all bring different quirks to their characters and Max Thieriot shows promising talent (in a few years, he'll be a bonafide hottie).
Alas, I never got an American Girl doll, but at least I got to see one come to life in Kitt Kittredge. I definitely would have enjoyed the film more if I was, say, 8 or 9, but I can definitely appreciate its smart young female heroine with a passion for writing and a sweet can-do spirit. This is one craze that actually has something to say.
Movie Grade: B
Academy AwardÂ® nominee Abigail Breslin (“Little Miss Sunshine”) will star as Kit Kittredge. The film is written by Ann Peacock and tells the story of the clever and resourceful Kit Kittredge, a nine-year-old girl growing up in 1934 during America’s Great Depression.
Introduced in 2000 as the seventh American Girl historical character, Kit Kittredge will be the first one to have her story adapted for a theatrical film.