Kit Kittredge: An American Girl Deserves an Enthusiastic Recommendation

What happens to a happy-go-lucky ten-year-old girl when the bottom falls out of her world? When she looks around to see that things are changing for the worse all around her? If she’s an “American Girl”, she follows the advice of her father, “Kit, don’t let it beat you”. That’s the motto of Kit Kittredge (Abigail Breslin), the heroine of the first “American Girl” film to hit the big screen. Previous films based on Samantha, Molly,  and Felicity debuted on TV, but this first film to hit the silver screen may be paving the way for more “American Girl” films to open at cinemas.Kit’s family lives in a picturesque middle class suburb of Cincinnati, where she has a club in her treehouse with her friends, Ruthie Smithens (Madison Davenport) and Stirling Howard (Zach Mills).   Kit’s father (Chris O’Donnell ) owns a car dealership and her mother (Julia Ormond) is a stay-at-home mother. Her older brother, whom we never see, has already left home to join the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) forgoing college to help out. Adults may see the handwriting on the wall when hobos Will Shepherd (Max Thierot) and  Countee (Willow Smith) arrive at the Kittredge home willing to “work for food”,  but Kit and her friends don’t realize something is amiss until her next door neighbor’s home is foreclosed, and they see them thrown out on the street. She is stunned to discover that she too is facing poverty when during a school service project, she sees her father eating at the local soup kitchen. He loses the car dealership and leaves for Chicago in search of work. Kit’s mother takes in a motley assortment of boarders to make ends meet, and Kit is moved out of her pretty bedroom into the attic.

Kit, an avid writer, finds solace by reporting on events around her, from the wallet theft she witnesses in town, to the hobo camp by the railroad tracks, which she visits in an effort to understand why so many people are in dire straights. She has to get to the bottom of the mystery called “the Depression”, and tries to offer her perspective in her first submission to the Cincinnati Register, announcing to the gruff editor, Mr. Gibson (Wallace Shaun), “I want to be in print!” Kit’s story on the hobo camp is roundly rebuffed as too controversial; public opinion still points fingers at the hobos as lazy, undeserving troublemakers. Kit knows in her heart that her friends Will  and Countee are honest,  and soon she has to use her best investigative journalism skills to prove this.

Authentic costumes, sets, and excellent casting make this period film work, the story line and characters are engaging if stereotyped, and the packed house on opening day gave the film a hearty round of applause. The house lights revealed tweens dressed up,  and carrying their American Girl dolls. This mother-daughter event was obviously the  highlight of their summer. One mother shared her approval of the “good family values” she saw reflected in the film. Her eleven-year-old daughter sometimes asks difficult questions about some of the music she hears, but with an American Girl movie, she said, “a mom can just enjoy the film”.

Kit is respectful to authority figures like her teachers and her parents, yet shows just enough spunk not to back down to Mr. Gibson’s growling, nor be intimidated at some of her rougher tenants. The film’s themes of kindness to the poor, the importance of loyalty,  and the fact that pain of separation of families is worse than economic troubles, warm the heart of this mother of three girls. The only thing missing was in the final scene at the Thanksgiving table: though a spirit of gratitude was apparent, no one said grace.  The conservative families I saw shopping at the American Girl store in New York would have approved heartily if a simple prayer was said. Maybe next time. Meanwhile, this movie contained nothing offensive, and difficult themes were dealt with gently. It is enthusiastically recommended for all audiences; even boys should give this charming film a chance.

By

Mother to three daughters and a Literature instructor, Leticia has always loved writing, good literature, and classic films. She became a blogger in 2006, and began to include film reviews on her blogs, Causa Nostrae Laetitiae, and Cause of Our Joy Suddenly Leticia was thrust into the world of film criticism when Eric Sheske of the National Catholic Register mentioned her blog as a source for Catholic film reviews. The next day, an invitation arrived to attend a film premiere in Hollywood, which she accepted, and a film critic was born. Leticia began Catholic Media Review to guide parents in their decisions on whether to let their children see a particular film. She also promotes independent family films like “Bella”, and “Fireproof” so that they can reach a larger audience. Her goal is nothing less than a transformation of the culture to what Pope John Paul II called a “Culture of Life”. She realizes that the pivotal role the media has to play in this transformation, and is determined that those who would defame Christ’s message do not have the last word. She writes film and book reviews for the following publications: MercatorNet, Catholic Exchange, Catholic Online, and “National Catholic Register”. Her reviews have been posted at the websites of Reuters, IMBD, USA Today, Chicago Sun-Times, and various TV news stations.

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  • http://arkanabar.blogspot.com Arkanabar Ilarsadin

    If I recall correctly, the last time I saw American Girl mentioned here, it was as a supporter of the Planned Parenthood Foundation of America.

    Or course, I reserve the right to be wrong.

  • jclarkfam1

    I was just thinking the same thing. My daughters want to see this movie, but I do not want to support Planned Parenthood. If anyone has information about this movie possibly supporting planned parenthood, please respond.

    Thanks for your help.

  • idlawly

    RE: American Girl DollsFriday, September 26, 2008 12:28 PM
    From: “John Jansen” Add sender to Contacts To: idlawly@yahoo.comDear Mrs. Yeary,

    Thanks for writing.

    The American Girl boycott ended on December 26, 2005, when American Girl
    formally concluded its program in connection with the pro-abortion group
    Girls Inc. We have kept an eye on American Girl since then and find nothing
    in their activities to object to at this time.

    However, let me put in a plug for the Life of Faith dolls. These dolls came
    to light during our boycott of American Girl, when we were searching for
    alternatives.

    They’re every bit as nice as American Girl dolls — perhaps even nicer. And
    each of them comes with a story book written from a Christian perspective,
    and with a tiny Bible, with one verse from each book.

    So, you can shop at American Girl with a clear conscience — in fact, if you
    do so, I encourage you to write the company and thank them for no longer
    donating to Girls Inc. But you might also want to take a look at Life of
    Faith:

    http://www.alifeoffaith.com/

    Thanks again for writing. Please let us know if you have any further
    questions.

    Yours for Life,

    John Jansen
    Co-Director
    Generations for Life
    Youth Outreach of the Pro-Life Action League
    (773) 304-LIFE
    http://generationsforlife.org
    http://prolifeaction.org

    Interested in starting a pro-life club? Find out more here:

    http://generationsforlife.org/clubs/curriculum

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