Kit Kittredge: An American Girl
We’ve had movies based on real life, novels, comic books, video games and even toys. But Kit Kittredge: An American Girl may be the first movie based on a doll. If that sounds like an empty-headed and unoriginal source for a motion picture, you’d no doubt be right. However, what director Patricia Rozema does with the stories written to accompany the hugely-popular American Girl dolls is nothing short of magical. Kit Kittredge is one of the best kid’s movies to come out in years.
Kit Kittredge (Oscar nominee Abigail Breslin) doesn’t realize she’s not an adult. The plucky 10-year-old aspiring journalist is always on the lookout for a good story to pitch to Cincinnati’s cantankerous newspaper editor (Wallace Shawn). And with The Great Depression wreaking havoc on every household across America, including her own, dynamite stories are abundant.
When Kit’s father (Chris O’Donnell) loses his job and moves to Chicago in search of work, Kit and her mother (Julia Ormond) are forced to grow their own food, sell eggs door to door, and take in a colorful assortment of borders, including an itinerant magician (Stanley Tucci), a effervescent dance instructor who wants nothing more than to dance into a husband’s heart (Jane Krakowski) and a screwball mobile librarian (Joan Cusack).
Kit finds her big story when the Kittredge house is robbed and the main suspects are her friends Will (Max Thieriot) and Countee (Willow Smith), local hobos. Unwilling to believe that her friends are guilty of the crime, Kit sets out to prove their innocence, save her home from foreclosure and use her typewriter to convince the public that all the hobos have been given a bum rap.
Kit Kittredge: An American Girl’s take on the Great Depression and the toll it took on this country is both eloquent and forthright. Very few films have examined the economic hardship Americans faced in the 1930s (which, as seen in the film, has a spooky resonance to today), let alone a children’s movie. Set amongst hobo jungles and soup kitchens, Kit Kittredge acknowledges the cruel indifference of the more fortunate as well as the pride and fortitude of those down on their luck.
Borrowing heavily from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, the film’s lead character – as portrayed by the sparkling Breslin – is a young girl of fierce empathy and humanistic tenacity. Kit is a bright, inquisitive, resourceful young girl whose courage, compassion and fortitude is a phenomenal example to the young girls who will and should flock to see this movie. With pictures of Eleanor Roosevelt and Amelia Earhart decorating her tree house, Kit represents precocious girl power, a feminism that encourages kids to confront problems with their head and heart rather than brawn.
It is wonderful seeing two actors again who have been absent from the silver screen of late, O’Donell and Ormond. They lead an all-star cast as gifted as it is delightful.
The charmingly acted, sumptuously shot and endlessly inspiring Kit Kittredge: An American Girl is a poignant and touching film that is equally fun and frolicsome. For a moment anyway, this film made me desperately want to be a kid again.
© 2008 Brandon Fibbs. All rights reserved.
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