A cinematic slice of Americana, “Kit Kittredge: An American Girl” is the kind of old-fashioned, family adventure that most studios stopped making a long time ago. Based on the popular American Girl series of novels, this film is sweet, touching and goes down as easy as a cold glass of lemonade on a hot day.
“Kit Kittredge” is Set During the Great Depression
Academy Award-nominee Abigail Breslin plays the title role, a spunky young lady with big dreams about becoming a reporter. Even though she’s not even in high school yet, Kit wants a job at the local paper, but the editor (Wallace Shawn) won’t take an 11-year-old girl seriously.
The realities of the ongoing Great Depression also interfere with Kit’s career plans as well as her daily life. The bank forecloses on some of the homes in the neighborhood, forcing a couple of Kit’s friends to leave Cincinnati and stay with relatives in other cities.
Her family isn’t immune to effects of the bad economy either and, after Mr. Kittredge (Chris O’Donnell) loses his car dealership, he has to leave town to search for work. In his absence, Mrs. Kittredge (Julia Ormond) grows vegetables and takes in an odd assortment of boarders
Kit Befriends Two Young Hobos
Facing possible eviction herself, Mrs. Kittredge takes pity on two young hobos named Will (Max Thieriot) and Countee (Willow Smith) and hires them to do some work around the property. Most people view hobos with a suspicious eye, however, and when valuable items start disappearing, the police suspect Will and Countee of stealing from their employer. Against overwhelming odds, Kit does her best to find the real crooks and prove that her two friends are innocent of any crime.
Abigail Breslin Carries the Film
A pleasant summertime diversion, “Kit Kittredge: An American Girl” is a throwback to some of the more innocent films from the 1940’s and 50’s. Working from the screenplay by Ann Peacock, director Patricia Rozema (“Mansfield Park”) looks back at the Great Depression through the eyes of one very determined young lady. Rozema has a good eye for detail, creating what appear to be a realistic residential neighborhood and a hobo jungle from the 1930’s.
The weight of the film rests on Abigail Breslin, though, and she shows once again why she has become one of the most popular child actors of the decade. Breslin gives Kit a hunger for truth and justice and she’s more than willing to go toe-to-toe with a cynical newspaper editor.
Some of Hollywood’s most popular character actors support Breslin, including Joan Cusack as a traveling librarian and Stanley Tucci as an out-of-work magician. Despite this wealth of talent in the cast, “Kit Kittredge” is Breslin’s film and she carries it with ease.
The Bottom Line: “Kit Kittredge” is a Role Model and American Girl
The American Girl books are immensely popular with teens and tweens and, based on the quality of this film, it’s easy to understand why. Kit Kittredge is an excellent role model, the kind of girl that any parent would be proud to have.
“Kit Kittredge: An American Girl,” rated G, opens nationwide on Wednesday, July 2.