Since the entirety of my experience with horses ends at the Mountain State Fair and with the donkey that my neighbor would let my sister and me ride when we were about 4 years old, it’s pretty obvious that I am not the intended audience for Flicka. A supposed adaptation of Mary O’Hara’s children’s book My Friend Flicka and a remake of the 1943 film of the same name (starring a young Roddy McDowall), Flicka eschews much of the originals’ plot. As opposed to a young boy being given a horse in order to teach him responsibility, we are instead given a rebellious teenage girl who loves horses (so much so that she manages to daydream about horses straight through a two-hour exam without even starting the test). She wants to tame a wild mustang (the titular equine, whose name is Swedish, we are told, for “girl”) she has stumbled upon.
In all honesty, before this movie was released, I had never heard of O’Hara’s children’s “classic” (being a twenty-something, I assume the book went out of fashion with public schools before my time), so I have no fond, nostalgic memories of the book to compare with director Michael Mayer’s (A Home at the End of the World (2004)) remake. It would seem that the filmmakers are attempting to modernize the story, while at the same time trying to keep the film in the vein of old-fashioned family entertainment. While the film accomplishes both of these aspects, the “old-fashioned” part keeps it from being more than simply passable. By the end, the movie is just another in a long line of family-oriented, animal-themed movies. Instead of remaking the movie after the original, they instead borrowed from a bunch of other works. The movie brings nothing new, and, in actuality, seems to be a story that would be better suited for The Wonderful World of Disney than as a feature. This is especially apparent when the film loses steam around the 60-minute mark, plus the requisite feel-good ending feels tacked on.
Despite this, the film ultimately remains inoffensive and harmless (depending on how you might take the apparent idea that if you don’t listen to your parents and almost kill yourself being disobedient that eventually they’ll cave in and let you do what you want). But it never becomes anything more than “OK.” Maria Bello (A History of Violence) and Alison Lohman (Big Fish) give good performances; the Wyoming landscape looks beautiful (but let’s be honest, if you can’t make Wyoming look majestic then you have no business behind a camera); and the dialogue really isn’t as bad as some critics are saying (though they do use the word “loco” an inordinate amount of times for a movie full of Caucasians).
In the end, if you’re looking for a something safe to take the kids to, or have an interest in horses, then Flicka is a nice 94-minute diversion. For everybody else, there are definitely more worthwhile ways to spend your eight bucks at the theater this week. Rated PG for some mild language.
–reviewed by Justin Souther