Bright, inquisitive and generous, Kit Kittredge is a natural born leader. But her happy childhood is abruptly interrupted when her father loses his car dealership and must leave Cincinnati to look for work. Kit and her mother Margaret are left to manage on their own, growing vegetables, selling eggs and even taking in an assortment of...
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Bright, inquisitive and generous, Kit Kittredge is a natural born leader. But her happy childhood is abruptly interrupted when her father loses his car dealership and must leave Cincinnati to look for work. Kit and her mother Margaret are left to manage on their own, growing vegetables, selling eggs and even taking in an assortment of boarders including an itinerant magician, a vivacious dance instructor on the prowl for a husband and a zany mobile librarian. When a crime spree sweeps Cincinnati, all signs point to the local "hobo jungle." Kit, who always has her antennae out for a good news story, goes to see the hobo camp for herself and writes an article that creates a sympathetic portrait of the camp's residents. But, when Kit's mother and their boarders become the latest victims in a string of robberies, Kit's loyalties are tested. With all of their savings gone, the Kittredges face losing their house to foreclosure. Determined to recover the stolen money, Kit recruits her friends Ruthie and Stirling to help her track down the real culprit. Together they uncover a plot that goes far beyond Cincinnati!
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Kit Kittredge is a harmless, old-fashioned, very G-rated family film. In this case, though, the 'G' stands for girls only.
Based on the popular American Girl series of books and doll line, this first edition focuses on Kit Kittredge (Abigail Breslin), an aspiring young cub reporter who, during the Great Depression, finds her sunny world turned upside down when her father's (Chris O'Donnell) car dealership goes under, and he must leave Cincinnati to find other work. This leaves Kit and her mother (Julia Ormond) to fend for themselves selling eggs and home-grown veggies and renting out rooms in order to keep the family home. Kit always has time for others, bringing home a stray Basset hound or convincing her parents to let a couple of hobo friends (Max Thieriot, Willow Smith) help out around the house in return for meals. They are among the colorful characters in her life, including the Kittredge's new tenants, a magician (Stanley Tucci), a man-hungry dancer (Jane Krakowski) and a ditzy librarian (Joan Cusack). Kit also spends a lot of time writing articles, including a glowing one on the hobo community, which she hopes to sell to the craggy publisher (Wallace Shawn) of the local newspaper. When a crime spree suddenly hits, and the Kittredge's savings are wiped out, blame is pointed at the hobo camp. With the help of her buddies Stirling (Zach Mills) and Ruthie (Madison Davenport), Kit must solve the mystery and save the day.
With a part tailor-made for her, Breslin is the perfect Kit, endlessly optimistic, determined and hopeful. Clearly, she is the child star of the moment, walking capably in the footsteps of the Culkins and Fannings of the world. The film, not designed for anyone over 10-years-old, really belongs to the kids with both Mills--as the awkward Stirling--and Davenport--as best friend Ruthie--add a lot of charm to the proceedings. Also doing nicely is Thieriot (Jumper) as one of the young hobo boys, and Will Smith's daughter Willow, in a surprising turn as his good friend (who may or may not be who she seems). Adult roles are largely one-dimensional but a good supporting cast makes the most of them, particularly Tucci and the colorful Cusack. Shawn is fun as the editor Kit keeps trying to impress, and O'Donnell and Ormond are sympathetic parents.
Director Patricia Rozema (Mansfield Park) competently directs this old-fashioned, live-action family film that is so "G" and squeaky clean, it seems out of place with all the hipper CGI-type of fare aimed at younger audiences today. Since this film was obviously designed to sell the enormously popular American Girl dolls, you can't expect a masterpiece. Still, there is a certain sweetness and longing for a life long ago that makes this more a cousin to something out of the '30s or '40s like Judy Garland's Meet Me in St. Louis than to Breslin's previous hits Nim's Island and Little Miss Sunshine. How her fans react will be interesting but clearly the filmmakers (which include executive producer Julia Roberts) are just hoping to move some merchandise and put a smile on the faces of the very youn--and very female--target audience. If Rozema's pleasant film does that, you can expect a slew of sequels based on other American Girl dolls.
Hollywood.com rated this film 2 1/2 stars.
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