The girls will like it. But will mom?
Kit Kittredge: An American Girl is based on the American Girl doll and story of 10-year-old Kit (Abigail Breslin), an astonishingly precocious little aspiring journalist who is growing up in Cincinnati during the Great Depression. All around her, Kit's friends are losing their homes when their parents can't make the mortgages and she is shocked to find her family might be in that same position, too. Her dad (Chris O'Donnell) leaves home for Chicago in hopes of finding work, and her mother (Julia Ormond) starts to take in boarders to help pay the bills. Meanwhile, the town is up in arms over a spate of robberies suspected to have been committed by the growing and desperate homeless population (aka 'hobos'). Through it all, Kit refuses to give up her dream of being published in the local paper.
Let's start off with a disclaimer: I am not the intended audience for Kit Kittredge: An American Girl. I am too old to have ever had any American Girl dolls myself, don't have any children who do, and am generally too jaded to be a big fan of anything with less than a PG-rating. So it should come as no surprise that I did not particularly enjoy the movie. But I would suspect that a 10-year-old girl who had her hair cut in a bob to look like her Kit doll would have a different reaction -- and well she should. And frankly in this case, it's her opinion that matters. And I think she would give it a rave review.
Most of the acting is un-noteworthy. Julia Ormond (Sabrina, Legends of the Fall) makes a nice, hearty mom, but she looks about 400 years older than Chris O'Donnell (Scent of a Woman, Batman Forever), and Jane Krakowski (30 Rock, Ally McBeal) frustratingly typecast again as a man-crazy husband-hunting dance teacher. But little Zach Mills (Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, Hollywoodland) is a positive scene-stealing cutie-pants as Kit's friend Stirling, and not-so-little Max Thieriot (The Astronaut Farmer, Jumper) smolders in a rather Ethan Hawke-ish sort of way as hobo-with-a-heart Will Shepherd (don't worry -- he's 19, it's okay to drool a little).
Mostly, Kit Kittredge is exactly what you'd expect -- a treacle-sweet, simplistic story about maintaining a stiff upper lip in the face of adversity, keeping your family together, and not judging a book by its cover. Sure, you might want to poke your eye out with your soda straw between the platitudes about the poor being kind and the 56th time someone says the word "hobo," but when you throw in the Great Depression history lesson and female empowerment modeling, and its still a decent movie to take the kids to -- even if they're going to beg you for another $100 doll as soon as it's over.