Rotten Attitudes Hold the Reins in "Flicka"
- 2006 19 Oct
Release Date: October 20, 2006
Rating: PG (for mild language)
Run Time: 94 min.
Director: Michael Mayer
Actors: Tim McGraw, Maria Bello, Alison Lohman, Ryan Kwanten, Kaylee DeFer, and Daniel Pino
No matter how wonderful a movie’s cinematography, music, and acting are, it’s always the story that makes or breaks a film. It’s that life lesson and relatable feeling you take away that really counts in the end. In the new film “Flicka,” unfortunately, the takeaway is a vague uneasiness about the lesson you’ve just been fed for two hours.
Based on the children’s book, "My Friend Flicka," the movie is about a teenage girl, Katy (Alison Lohman), who is just coming home to her family’s sprawling ranch in Wyoming after a bad semester at boarding school. It turns out that she didn’t even attempt to write her final essay in Language Arts, and her reasoning is that she didn’t want to write only what the school wanted to hear; she has ideas of her own. It doesn’t seem to matter that her parents (Tim McGraw and Maria Bello) are making great sacrifices to keep her in an exclusive private school, and her willfulness could cost them another year’s tuition for a repeat.
While Katy thinks about how to tell her father that she has failed out, she finds a wild mustang in the mountains and feels an instant connection to it. The mustang, which she names "Flicka" (Swedish for "beautiful, young girl"), even scares off a mountain lion and allows her to run safely home. When Katy gets home, Dad has already gotten a fax with the devastating school news, so she sees too late that it’s a really bad time to tell him that she has found a wild horse and wants to retrieve it. Her dad forbids her to have anything more to do with the horse, as wild mustangs have a corrupting effect on the other horses. She disobeys, captures the horse, and sneaks out at night to befriend and train the animal.
To add to the father-daughter tension, times are tough, economically, and Katy’s dad is considering both selling the mustang to a man who wants it for rodeos and selling the ranch. Katy doesn’t understand and is furious. She also finds out that her older brother, Howard (Ryan Kwanten), is simply biding his time, and working the ranch out of compulsion, and that he actually has secret plans to go off to college and then see the world with his beautiful girlfriend, Miranda (Kaylee DeFer). Howard sees that Katy has aspirations to take over the ranch one day, and he encourages her to do so.
Katy’s dad ends up making a decision that infuriates her even more, so she decides to take matters into her own hands to fix things. She concocts a plot that involves disguises, deception, and disobedience, and her actions lead her on an even wilder, more dangerous course that affects the lives of many.
There are some moving, beautiful elements in “Flicka.” The cinematography of the Wyoming mountains and wild horses are amazing, and the setting is very inviting. The simple fact that there are horses in almost every scene will draw young girls to the movie in droves. The acting is fair, but there are places of downright corniness. For instance, after the rain and lightning begins, someone says, “The weather’s comin’ in.” Oh, really? And the melodramatic scene of Katy crying and running after the truck that’s taking Flicka away – in the rain, of course – is just a bit too much.
Again, however, “Flicka’s” biggest problem is with unresolved elements of the story. The lesson children and teens get from this movie may not be the one that parents want for them. And it’s all about rotten attitudes.
Katy is very rebellious and disobedient throughout the movie, and she remains high strung and overly angry, despite the fact that she has loving parents with very reasonable rules. The filmmakers seem to want us to compare rebellious Katy to the wild, spirited mustangs and relate to her need for unchecked freedom, but without seeing repentance and a softening in her character – or any type of rebuke for her disobedience and rebellion -- we’re left with a high cringe factor.
Because of this, “Flicka” feels more like a B-rated television movie than a big screen drama/adventure. Fortunately, there are many other good family choices in theaters this season, which do have great, uplifting lessons. Two recent examples on which your entertainment dollars might be better spent are “Facing the Giants” and “One Night with the King.”
AUDIENCE: Adults and older children
- Drugs/Alcohol: None.
- Language: A few mild obscenities.
- Sex: None.
- Violence: Horse-related violence with wild horse stampedes, mountain lion attacks, and rodeo accidents.