Based not on a show or even a song or a game, "Kit Kittredge: An American Girl" is based on a doll.
The doll in question is a beloved artifact manufactured and sold by a subsidiary of Mattel, under the rubric "American Girl." The dolls are linked to a time and place in history with a wardrobe of appropriate accessories. The series has been extremely successful, and this installment is the fourth film (though the first to get the big movie treatment with a theatrical release, as opposed to a straight-to-video destiny). Julia Roberts is the executive producer.
It's set in 1934 Cincinnati; the Kittredges are solidly ensconced in their suburban home, secure and warm and full of love for one another, the comforting dwelling serving as a symbol of the solidity of their upper-middle-class life. Perky 9-year-old Kit (Abigail Breslin) is trying to "break into print" at the downtown Cincinnati Register.
We watch as the Depression, first represented by scrawny hobos slouching along the street, erodes the sanctity of the Kittredges' middle-class security. Dad (Chris O'Donnell, overmatched) loses his car dealership and can't find work; gradually the family makes the decision to take in boarders, and Dad hits the road. In what seems like 10 minutes -- wait, it is10 minutes! -- Mom (Julia Ormond) and the kid are sharing the abode with zanies, wackos and crazies!
The movie, despite its unusual pedigree is, alas, not unusual in the slightest. In fact, it is so usual that it deserves some kind of award for obviousness as it telegraphs every development, traffics in stereotypes and cliches, and merrily appends 21st-century political correctness onto the 20th century's hardest and grimiest decade. The tweener girls for whom it is aimed deserve better.
-- Stephen Hunter
--Stephen Hunter (July 1, 2008)
Contains mild intensity.