[box cover]


The filmmakers behind the sweet-hearted, mostly well-made family film Flicka (2006) know their target audience. In fact, they cater to it at the expense of the original book. The movie's a loose adaptation of Mary O'Hara's 1941 children's novel (and the 1943 film ) My Friend Flicka. And by "loose adaptation," it should be noted that the new Flicka changes the lead character — a kid who forms an irrationally close bond with a horse — from a boy to a girl, which is a brilliant marketing move because it allows the new Flicka to become a Red Bull-level fix for young girls who crave stories about girls and their animals. Perhaps that sounds cynical, but it's sort of impossible to discuss Flicka without admiring its genius as a piece of niche-audience wish-fulfillment. Anyone who's raised a teenage girl who loves Tamora Pierce books or their many imitators knows the niche audience exactly. (Lots of sentences about "velvety flanks.") Flicka courts this demographic so aggressively that its end credits play over a montage of random snapshots of girls of all ages riding and/or nuzzling their steeds. Anyway. The movie follows boarding-school student Katy (Alison Lohman), "the only daughter in a long line of ranchers." She's failing in school because all she can do is write essays in her head about how "the history of the West was written by the horse." Home at her dad's Wyoming ranch for the summer, she falls down a hill and meets cute with a black mustang after it saves her from a mountain lion. "You came to me," she whispers later. "You know me." Her dad Rob (Tim McGraw) corrals the mustang to keep it from compromising his quarter-horse herd. From there, Flicka falls into a familiar rhythm:

  • We fly over gorgeous scenery to the strains of country-pop selected by McGraw;
  • Dad forbids Katy to train/ride/touch the titular horse;
  • Katy does something headstrong, in the grand tradition of kids in movies who bond with animals at the expense of people, rationale or indeed the most basic forethought;
  • Something tragic happens;
  • And someone gives a speech about shared identity. Katy says about Flicka, "We're the same!" McGraw's wife (Maria Bello) tells him, "When are you gonna look at your daughter and realize she's you?" (Everybody is everybody else in this movie, apparently.)

Rinse and repeat. The story gets a little over-the-top cheesy toward the end, right around the time Katy dresses as a boy to enter an insane rodeo race. But it's hard to argue with the movie's big heart, solid craftsmanship, likable characters, decent acting, gorgeous scenery, or the fact that it's going to leave its audience blubbering and smiling. Fox's DVD release features both anamorphic (2.35:1) and full-frame (1.33:1) transfers on opposite sides of the disc, while extras include a commentary by director Michael Mayer, three deleted scenes with optional commentary, two outtakes, a gag reel, and Tim McGraw's music video of "My Little Girl." Keep-case.
Mike Russell

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