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Sixteen year old Katie McLaughlin (Alison Lohman) is a headstrong and determined teenager trying to find her way in life. Katie forms a bond with a wild horse she names Flicka. Despite pleas from her father (Tim McGraw) not to ride Flicka, Katy sets out to follow her own path not only with the horse, but with her future to show that she is capable taming Flicka and one day taking over the family ranch.
Can a wild horse with a bad attitude and a not-quite-wild but pretty darn sullen teenage girl with a bad attitude be the best things that ever happened to each other? Though we guess the answer pretty early on in Flicka, it doesn't diminish the feel-good family film one bit. The film is a remake of the 1947 My Friend Flicka itself based on the bestselling (and still riveting) novel by Mary O'Hara, and starring a young Roddy McDowall as the aimless teen hero. This 2006 update changes the hero to a heroine, Katy (Alison Lohman), though the dynamic is similar, and in some ways makes the appeal of the film broader. After all, young girls love their horses, and Katy's moxie and determination, as she opens her heart to the wild filly, a touchingly and humanly conveyed. As Katy struggles with her relationship with her gruff dad (given an excellent performance by country star Tim McGraw), she finds she can gain confidence and be the person her father wants her to be--solely by being herself as she connects with Flicka the horse. The cinematography is stunning, and showcases a part of America that once was seen and celebrated often in films, and lately so rare as to be precious. --A.T. Hurley
Flicka Family Classics Collection
My Friend Flicka (Paperback)
Stills from Flicka
- Disc 1 Side A:
- Full Screen Feature
- "My Little Girl" Tim McGraw Music Video
- Disc 1 Side B:
- Widescreen Feature
- 3 Deleted Scenes
- Making of Featurette
- Gag Reel
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If you're a horse-crazy girl between the ages of 9 and 13, you will absolutely love this movie. Not only is the girl-horse bond strong, but so is the love between Katie and her father, mother, and brother. They are an ideal family and virtue overcomes all odds, as we know it must in a PG-rated movie. It's a simple and wholesome story with no offensive material, although if you're not a horse-loving adolescent, you may find it predictable and only mildly entertaining. Alison Lohman and Tim McGraw give sensitive performances as the headstrong daughter and doting dad, but Maria Bello is too young and glamorous to be convincing as the mother/wife. It's a good film for the target audience, and just in time for little girls to start begging for a horse for Christmas.
No matter how good the movie might be, there is no reason to support an evil company that does this. Oh, and regardless of what fans of this movie write here, Flicka was pretty much panned by critics and didn't do well at the box office; I had predicted that Flicka would be the "Gigli of 2006" and it didn't even do as well as that flop.
The movie, however, is quite different. While the same basic theme of impulsive, horse-crazy child vs. traditional rancher father is preserved, huge changes have been made to the plotline. The most obvious of these is that the main character has been switched from a 9-year-old boy to a 16-year-old girl. The film begins with the family being notified that Katy (Alison Lohman) is being held back a year in school due to her failure to complete a final essay. In hopes of postponing the inevitable confrontation with her father (Tim McGraw), Katy goes for a trail ride and encounters a mountain lion. Conveniently, a lone mustang appears and runs the creature off. Katy, enraptured by this mysterious horse, rushes home and asks her father to bring the filly in. Having just gotten word of Katy's failure in school, he predictably says no. So Katy runs off and tries to capture the horse herself. Not surprisingly, she bungles the attempt, and her father ends up bringing the filly in after all, if only to keep her from joining and "ruining" his own herd of Quarter Horses. He orders Katy to stay away from the filly so, also rather predictably, she begins sneaking out to the corral at night, leading to a further cascade of events that build more and more tension between girl and father.
Ironically, the change in the main character's age is probably the biggest thing that keeps the story from being plausible. The writers simply did not adjust the dialogue or behavior to fit an older character. As a result, we see a 16-year-old girl acting like a child. Is dissolving into tearful screaming fits and declaring hatred for one's father each time something doesn't go the way you'd like a good way to convince one's parents that you're mature and capable and deserve to be rewarded? Not likely. Katy's father is not an ogre, and the film makes it very clear that he cares about his family, but Katy's explosions would be enough to turn any parent off. Behavior like this may be understandable in a 9-year-old (though even Ken in the book doesn't throw fits like his movie counterpart does), but a 16-year-old should know better. A 16-year-old raised on a ranch should also have some amount of common sense around horses, but Katy does not. She just hauls herself aboard the wild horse one night, not taking any time to condition the filly to the feel of a foreign body on her back and, predictably, is promptly deposited in the dirt. When Flicka finally does accept Katy as a rider, the girl decides it would be a great time to open the gate and go for a trail ride. And when Flicka, seeing her pathway to freedom opened, takes off at a gallop, what does Katy do to try to get her to stop? She begins screaming her head off.
Other changes, too, have been made to the story. In the movie, Flicka is a lone mustang that one day appears out of nowhere. In the book, Flicka is a part of McLaughlin's herd, only 1/4 mustang, the progeny of the ranch's Quarter Horse stallion Banner and the 1/2 mustang broodmare, Rocket. The original story is much more plausible, for it would be highly odd for a fully wild mustang to be found wandering alone. Horses are herd animals and for a wild horse to be separated from its herd is dangerous to its own survival. The other thing that really had me cringing was Flicka's incessant screaming and squealing after she is brought back to the ranch. Whereas domestic horses will whinny at each other in greeting and so forth, wild horses make very little noise, as doing so would alert predators. Anyone who has adopted a mustang can tell you that these horses are generally much quieter than their domestic counterparts. And as the movie progresses, the plotline deviates further and further from the original, until there are few parallels at all. In addition, just as Flicka's behavior in the film is unrealistic, so is that of the human characters. The dialogue is often juvenile and idealistic, and just not very believable.
Now, just to explain why I still gave the movie some stars, I'll refer back to my previous comment about it appealing to young, horse-crazy children, which is true. I probably would have loved this one when I was a kid. It is the kind of ambitious, take-on-the-world story that captures children's imaginations, and at that age they are unlikely to pick up on the unrealistic aspects. As far as loyalty to the book, I have been told that the older (1943) adaptation with Roddy McDowall as Ken is much better, but I have not seen it myself and so cannot give personal feedback. Finally, the DVD offers only a few special features. There is director commentary, a music video of Tim McGraw's "My Little Girl," outtakes, and three deleted scenes, only one of which (the extended bedtime conversation between Katy's parents) really lends anything to the story. Both widescreen and fullscreen viewing options are available. To conclude, I'd really only recommend this one to families with younger, horse-loving children. While it isn't the worst horse movie I've seen, I don't foresee it appealing to a very large adult audience. For older viewers seeking a good horse movie, "Seabiscuit" remains my favorite of those produced in recent years.
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