This is a brand-new chick flick for the pre-teen set. Although it’s the fourth movie in the popular American Girl historically-themed franchise, it’s the first to garner a big-screen release.
Spunky, inquisitive Kit Kittredge (Abigail Breslin) is a Depression-era 10 year-old with a nose for a good story. It’s 1934 in Cincinnati, where the crusty editor (Wallace Shawn) at the local paper rejects her first reporting effort but not before he mentions that freelancers make a penny a word. The prospect of that financial windfall motivates Kit even more.
After her father (Chris O’Donnell) loses his car dealership, he goes to Chicago looking for work. To avoid foreclosure on the family home, her mother (Julia Ormond) sells eggs and is taking in boarders, like Miss Bond (Joan Cusack), the ditsy mobile librarian; Miss Dooley (Jane Krakowski), the flirtatious dance-instructor; Mr. Berk (Stanley Tucci), the vaudeville magician; and grouchy Mrs. Howard (Glenne Headly) with her nine year-old son (Zach Mills).
When there’s a string of sinister robberies, the boarders’ suspicions focus on the two orphaned, homeless ‘hobo’ boys, Will (Max Thieriot) and Countee (Willow Smith), her mother has hired to help around the house. But compassionate Kit is determined to find the real culprit.
Leaving the vanity of “Barbie” and the vacuousness of “Bratz” behind, screenwriter Ann Peacock (“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe”) and Canadian director Patricia Rozema (“Mansfield Park”) tackle gritty, relevant social issues like poverty and prejudice – while Abigail Breslin (“Little Miss Sunshine”) charms.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Kit Kittredge: An American Girl” is a sweetly wholesome, unabashedly sentimental 8. And one of its producers, Julia Roberts, acknowledges there will be more American Dolls in the future.