20th Century Fox presents
"Dad, I think we should bring that mustang in."- Katy (Alison Lohman)
Stars: Alison Lohman, Tim McGraw, Maria Bello
Other Stars: Ryan Kwanten, Dallas Roberts, Danny Pino, Kaylee DeFer, Jeffrey Nordling, Dey Young, Nick Searcy
Director: Michael Mayer
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild language
Run Time: 01h:34m:29s
Release Date: 2007-02-06
DVD ReviewThere are always fundamental conceptual issues anytime Hollywood takes on a remake, usually with questions that challenge the necessity or purpose of redoing what's already been done. And things that were already done well, at that.
In this case, it's a rewiring of a beloved 1941 book and/or a 1943 movie, so just based on the number of decades involved it would certainly seem like enough time has passed to at least justify a new version, and that's what we get with the untamed wild horse feature Flicka. And perhaps it's not surprising is that the screenplay comes from Mark Rosenthal and Lawrence Konner, a couple of guys already versed in revisiting the past via modernizations (Planet Of The Apes, Beverly Hillbillies, Mighty Joe Young).
The most significant change to anyone even casually familiar with Mary O'Hara's novel or the Roddy McDowall movie is that the main human character is no longer a spunky 9-year-old boy named Ken, but is now a headstrong 16-year-old girl named Katy (Alison Lohman). And that's probably enough to initially ruffle some feathers of those who adore O'Hara's work, yet the weird thing is that despite my general dislike of any big gender tweaks in remakes, it actually seems very natural here. It does put a nice new spin on the whole story dynamic, with Lohman's plucky Katy going against the wishes of her stern rancher dad (Tim McGraw) by obsessing over a supposedly unbreakable wild mustang. The headbutting relationship between Lohman and McGraw circles the drain fairly close to the basics of family reality (broad strokes that they are), all balanced by the even-keeled reason of the obligatory hot mom (Maria Bello). There are no unattractive people in the Flicka universe, people.
Make no mistake, though, the nuts-and-bolts of Flicka remains essentially a golden-hued family movie through and through, so this isn't exactly the most challenging plot to figure out. The characters and their assorted obstacles are well-telegraphed, the conflicts and dangers unspool as expected. That's the way it works here, with director Michael Mayer (A Home at the End of the World) landing a watchable turn from Lohman, a 27-year-old actress playing a teenager rather easily, though she often isn't required to do much more than look sad, look happy, or look worried. I imagine young girls will identify with Lohman's Katy (what girl didn't long for a horse at some point?), and since she's easy on the eyeballs I'll bet boys won't have a problem with it either. In fact, it's the kind of syrupy movie world where everyone is unnaturally clean and good-looking at all times, even when riding the range or preventing a herd of horses from plummeting over a cliff.
This is the kind of movie that at my very core I should pass on, and it's one of those that would be easy to dismiss with a joke as a piece of manipulative pap that treads on the foundations of a much loved book. But what happens with Flicka is that, as an example of the ever-decreasing family movie genre, the elements (glossy and golden that they are) all align in a pleasing way. This isn't a highbrow art film, nor is it a gritty family drama. It's a girl-loves-a-horse soaper, shiny when it needs to be, sad when it should, with everyone happy by the end.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B-
|Aspect Ratio||2.35:1 - Widescreen||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes||no|
Image Transfer Review: 20th Century Fox has issued Flicka as a dual-sided disc, with 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 fullframe options; thanks for the choice, but if you're not going with widescreen you'll feel the squeeze on some of the panoramic shots. This is a film that's deeply saturated in golds, greens and yellows, and the transfer showcases the color scheme strongly. The print is clean with a bit of grain during some scenes. Edge details are generally sharp and well-defined, and there don't appear to be any significant compression issues.
Image Transfer Grade: B
|DS 2.0||French, Spanish||yes|
Audio Transfer Review: The main audio track is a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround option, one that delivers clear dialogue and a moderately spacious sense of depth across the front channels. Not a terribly aggressive presentation overall—not that this one necessarily needs it—but plenty of directional pans and a score that fills out the rear channels during those moments when we're supposed to be moved.
French and Spanish 2.0 surround dubs are also included.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Because of Winn-Dixie, Aquamarine, Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties
3 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Michael Mayer
Extras Review: Flicka comes on a two-sided disc, with a fullscreen version on one side and the widescreen on the other. The fullscreen side carries a trio of trailers and a commentary track from director Michael Mayer. On the widescreen side—in addition to another appearance of the director's commentary—is a Tim McGraw music video for My Little Girl (02m:35s), a set of three deleted scenes (04m:24s) available with optional Mayer commentary, a couple of bloopers (02m:33s) and a gag reel (02m:27s).
The main Mayer commentary has a gentle, easy lilt to it—with the director never at a loss for words—talking about shooting near Malibu, the fundamental tweaks of the original story, the nuances of the characters and the strengths of the score to sell a mood. Maybe not the most riveting track, and Mayer does tend to rely a little too much on telling us what's happening onscreen, but he seems genuinely pleased with the final product.
The feature is cut into 20 chapters, with optional subtitles in English or Spanish.
Extras Grade: C+
Final CommentsI file this one under secret shame. It's warm, fuzzy, golden, and perfectly predictable—generally something I shy away from—but it's a solid piece of sugary family entertainment, led by the likeable determination of Alison Lohman. I'm a sucker for this kind of fluff when it's done right, and Flicka is a very easy watch.
The gender tweaks from the original book aside, this updated version seems to really naturally compliment Mary O'Hara's classic novel.
Well worth it as a family movie night rental.
Rich Rosell 2007-02-05