Film Review: Flicka

Finally, a movie that can leave viewers wondering if the book was better.

Some people may remember being six to eight years old and picking up a copy of My Friend Flicka from the school library. They may even remember the enjoyment they had reading it. But if the same people go to see the 20th Century Fox film about a horse with the same name, they may leave the theatre puzzled as to how much of the book they remember. Rest assured if viewers are confused, it isn’t because they are suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s. Nope, they are simply confused because the story has been changed so much. Not enough to call for a different name, but just enough to appeal to the sensibilities of a modern movie audience.

It’s still about the discovery of oneself. It’s still about a child who needs to learn responsibility. It’s still about a ranch. And, it’s still about a horse named Flicka. That’s where the similarities end, though. This modern retelling of the classic novel has a female in the role of the troubled youth seeking to find identity in a farm full of masculine counterparts. This may sound like the beginnings of a top notch film, but this tooth-rottingly sweet film will leave children in awe and adults who lack a love for horses wishing they had gone to see a different film.

This isn’t to say that Flicka is an entirely bad film. For starters, the cinematography and acting are spectacular. The cliche would be to say that the settings are the true star of the film, but the actors are still what make them believable. Alison Lohman does a great job portraying a girl nearly half her age in the middle of a teenage identity crisis. Maria Bello’s character lacks depth proportionate to the actor’s ability, but she plays the country wife convincingly enough to serve her narrative purpose.

Tim McGraw is the surprise factor for this movie. People may remember him in Black Cloud, written and directed by Rick Schroeder. Or they may remember him as the drunk, mumbling, abusive father in Friday Night Lights. To most, this will be the first glimpse at McGraw’s real acting ability. Apparently he can do more than sing. It may not be a stretch having a country music legend playing the father of a ranching family, but McGraw is able to handle the pressure of his biggest role to date and actually carries some of the film’s weaker moments, even next to some of his more experienced castmates.

Flicka may not be a movie for the older generation, but kids and equestrians will love it. They may even laugh at some of the film’s weaker attempts at levity. And as the film throws cliche after cliche at the audience, some may even shed the occasional tear.

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