Directed by Michael Mayer. Starring Tim McGraw, Maria Bello, Alison Lohman, Ryan Kwanten, Daniel Pino, Dallas Roberts. (2006, PG, 94 min.)
REVIEWED By Toddy Burton, Fri., Oct. 27, 2006
Does the world need another movie about a girl and her horse? If only someone would have posed this question to the producers of Flicka before they embarked on this forgettable filmmaking venture. We all would have been saved from yet another version of Mary O’Hara’s beloved children’s book, My Friend Flicka, previously adapted into two feature films and a television show. But in the desperately relentless attempt to fill theatres with anything that will draw the kids, the powers that be decided we needed yet another dose of the plucky teenager and a rebellious mustang. The change this time around is that the main character is a girl. Lohman (Big Fish) is all billowing tangles of hair and delicate Western shirts as Katy McLaughlin, the headstrong 16-year-old returning home for the summer from her boarding school. Raised in the genuinely breathtaking wilds of her family’s horse ranch in Wyoming, Katy wants nothing more than to preserve the spirit of the West and work the ranch. But her father (McGraw) has different ideas. He wants Katy to go to college. Before long, Katy finds a black mustang and secretly trains the wild horse, christened Flicka. Various melodramatic conflicts ensue, including the all-too-expected separation of Katy and the horse when her father attempts to sell it. While the movie does look very pretty and made me wish I had billowing tangles of hair and could ride my mustang through the dappled valleys where it’s always just before sunset, the thin plot and absence of genuine emotion result in a moviegoing experience that involves a lot of eye-rolling. Lohman has a couple of emotionally true moments. But Bello (A History of Violence) is way better than this. Did she lose a bet or something? Meanwhile, McGraw is in hog heaven with his character’s leather chaps and heart of gold. Ultimately, the entire endeavor seems like an effort to cash in on a predictably bankable tale. I can hear the executives now: “Hey, let’s update Flicka. We’ll get a cast of pretty actors, shoot the whole thing with orange filters, get some country star to record a new song, and the script’ll write itself.” No doubt the most devoted horse lovers in the tween set will get their fill, but parents should sneak out for a very long popcorn break. For a tale of a girl and her horse, give me The Science of Sleep any day. Sure, the horse is mechanical, but that’s what makes it so much more interesting.