“Kit Kittredge: An American Girl” – Susan Granger reviews

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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.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.