Sometimes the chasm between film critic and audience is simply too big to cross. It's no one's fault, we just see more movies than the rest of you. So when a critic watches a movie like Flicka, he see in it the things he's seen a hundred times before in film after film after film. If you've never seen any of the literally multitudes of other movies Flicka is drawing from, then there's a good chance you'll find it enjoyable. Unaware of the movie's unoriginality, I can see how the occasional filmgoer and especially young audiences will really enjoy it. There's nothing little girls love better than horses.
For the rest of us though, Flicka is an exercise in repetition. Yes, the scenery is beautiful and the horses quite stunning, but the script is just another in a long line of daddy-daughter conflict stories with a dash of animal husbandry mixed in. There hasn't been a new addition to the genre since The Little Mermaid, a movie that continues to define in the minds of youngsters and not-so-youngsters the nature of parent/child developmental conflict. Flicka doesn't redefine anything it just goes through the same familiar motions.
Based on the popular (and in my estimation quite good) novel "My Friend Flicka", the movie version stars Alison Lohman as budding young farm girl Katy McLaughlin. Katy is fifteen or sixteen, an age which Alison has been playing successfully for four or five years. No more. Lohman is twenty-eight and starting to look it. Flicka struggles mightily to young her up, but the result is more creepy than anything; they might as well have just put her hair in pigtails, given her a lollypop and called it a day for all the good it does. Once baby-faced Lohman has grown up, and it's about time her characters did too.
Katy returns home to her family's Quarterhorse ranch for the summer, and immediately starts butting heads with her father, played by country music star Tim McGraw. I'm not sure what it is that makes movie stars want to be musicians and musicians want to be actors, but in the case of McGraw his transition isn't wholly unwelcome. He's not exactly polished, but his stiff, folksy behavior serves him well here, as it did in Friday Night Lights. Katy's dad wants her to get an education, while Katy wants to run wild and free across the ranch, feeding fever dreams filled with horses.
While roaming the range Katy encounters a rare wild Mustang, helps capture her, and names her Flicka. Forbidden by her father to ride it, she develops a connection with the horse almost as a form of rebellion, secretly training and taming it late at night after dear old Dad is in bed. In the book, Flicka and Katy's relationship takes front and center. In the film, it's really just a catalyst for teenage angst. Before long Katy and her horse are in all kinds of trouble because of course, parents just don't understand.
The fractured relationship between Katy and her family works because the actors involved bring something to it. Lohan doesn't look the part, but she's still a fantastic actress, McGraw's awkwardness with acting actually works for his uncomfortable relationship with his daughter, and Maria Bello radiates strength and warmth as Katy's mother. Their voice is strong, they're just not singing a new tune.
That's ok. The real audience for this movie I suppose, is horse crazy little girls who'll never pick up on most of the background noise of family relationships cluttering up all the girl on horse affection happening in the film. It doesn't matter how many times she's seen it before, your daughter is going to love Flicka. If you haven't already been indoctrinated by her with all the other similarly themed movie material out there on this subject maybe you won't hate watching it with her.