Wednesday, July 02, 2008

"Kit Kittredge: An American Girl" -- * 1/2

Not only did I borderline-hate "Kit Kittredge: An American Girl," I'm flat-out disgusted with the critical community that is largely giving it a pass. Look at some of the review pull-quotes from Rotten Tomatoes: "While the script feels a little stiff and moralistic at times, it's hard to fault a film with such an intelligent, good-hearted heroine." Am I the only one who feels nauseous? This is the type of fare critics are supposed to encourage; it says and does all the right things. It's extremely sweet, innocent and has positive messages for young girls and moral values up the wazoo. It's so wholesome, I was shocked that it dared to feature a character saying "Holy cow" at one point. However, it's also so earnest, unrelentingly dull and devoid of entertainment, it's virtually impossible to sap any enjoyment out of it (and believe me, I was trying). It's as if the filmmakers assembled a bunch of Hollywood actors to be in the most gosh-durn, swellest, positive values film for young girls growing up in the 1950s. Those who found "WALL-E" too clever, too filled with ideas, and just too damned entertaining will have a ball here, but anyone else will likely find difficulty being engaged by "Dry Toast: The Movie."

Opening on May 2, 1934, our movie centers around 10-year-old middle-class Kit (Abigail Breslin), an aspiring reporter, and her various whimsical shenanigans. There's lots of talk about the depression, hobos, soup kitchens, saving leftovers and financial support. Kids at her school taunt and laugh at the poorer kids, since you know how caught up elementary schoolers can be with other kids' families' economic statuses. Most of the movie's "plot" has to do with what happens after Kit sees her dad at a soup kitchen and mom has to sell eggs and take in boarders (including Joan Cusack, Stanley Tucci and Jane Krakowski). All the while, Kit befriends two young kindly hobos, whom everyone tells her is bad news. When one of them (adorably homeless teenage ragamuffin Max Thierot) is accused of a series of crimes, it's up to Kit to prove what she knows in her heart, solve the case and show everyone the truth. Life lessons are learned.

Some friends have shrugged off my dislike for this film by saying I'm not its prime demographic, but fuck that logic. Fuck it right in the ear. I dig chick flicks, kiddie movies, Afro-centric fare, the list goes on. I like all sorts of films, and as long as a movie works on its own terms, I'll enjoy it. I don't believe in grading movies for certain demos besides myself "on a curve," and I can't imagine 8-year-old girls being any less bored by this than I was. This is insulting pap for audiences of any age, and I may not be a girl, but I know when I was a wee one, I didn't like being talked down to, nor did I like being bored into a stupor. Apparently these 'American Girl' dolls and books are huge and I'm just oblivious, but their love for a doll should hardly be able to get them through this Depression-era package of bland earnestness.

For such a pandering, flavorless cash-grab, "Kit Kittredge" has a surprisingly strong cast, none of whom do anything resembling work they'd be proud of. Breslin fares the best, since she merely continues playing her 'upbeat-yet-weepy girl' archetype she plays in every movie, and does fine. The problems with the character aren't really her fault; besides her wig being distractingly terrible, Kit is supposed to be this incredibly intelligent, adult-acting young girl, but she's impulsive enough to comment on a fellow kid's big ears, and balk at her mother's egg-selling necessities. She's also an incredibly un-engaging protagonist, but it's no surprise that darling Kit is so boring, since she's the offspring of the blandest parents ever, Julia Ormond and Chris O'Donnell.

It's always a delight to see Glenne Headly, even though she looks like literal death here; Seriously, it's never a good sign when actresses look sickly enough to inspire sympathy, and for you to check IMDb for their age and health status (for those concerned, she's only 53). The movie however, disgracefully, manages to make two of my faves, Cusack and Krakowski, incredibly uninteresting to watch. Tucci comes the closest to being mildly entertaining out of anyone; he has two or three moments when I almost chuckled. All the actors here clearly just showed up to do a nice movie for their kids and pick up a paycheck; there's no evidence of character embodiment or strong acting prowess on display.

With a 95 minute length that feels at least twice that, it seems like audience-taunting have a character utter the line "Your eyelids are getting heavy, you can barely keep them open" at the halfway point, but then, this isn't a film that has much regard for its audience. And I'm not saying all people should be as cynical as I am, but are there really people that could withhold chuckling at moments like our little black kid character (played by *spoiler alert* Will Smith's daughter, Willow) saying, "That'd be swell, Sterling!" or music turning somber right before a character reveals mid-story "...and then the influenza came." The "humor" is leaden, with the big "laugh" moment being someone walking in on someone doing an impression of them... yeah. When all else fails, a character with a monkey is introduced.

"Kit Kittredge: An American Girl," executive-produced by Julia Roberts, is competently made for sure, and I'll admit it's nice to see a movie made for girls that's written and directed by women. But I'd rather those efforts had been put toward a work that actually had a semblance of originality, creativity or -- dare I say it? -- fun. Some (i.e. Conservative Christian Suburban mothers who complain they don't make kids movies like they used to) will be pleased with this completely joyless, entertainment-free vanilla romp, but for most audience members, it'll be more of an eye-rolling, slack-jawed endurance test of a movie. For all the talk about the immorality of movies like "Wanted," for me, this movie is much more of an embodiment of what is wrong with modern American cinema.


Post a Comment

<< Home