An American Girl: Chrissa Stands Strong Movie Poster Image

An American Girl: Chrissa Stands Strong



Tween mean girl meets her match in Chrissa.
Parents recommendPopular with kids
  • Review Date: January 8, 2009
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 2009
  • Running Time: 90 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Meaningful lessons about standing up to bullies, being a friend, telling the truth, and coping with difficult times come through with minimal preachiness. Children of diverse sizes and ethnicities are depicted.

Positive role models

A close and caring multigenerational family is depicted. One character is picked on when her status as a temporary resident of a homeless shelter is inadvertently revealed.

Violence & scariness

A diving board accident is portrayed in a non-graphic way.

Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Not applicable

Since the movie comes from the American Girl empire, it's bound to fuel desire for the Chrissa, Sonali, and Gwen dolls; as well as books, clothes, and accessories.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie packs a wallop of a message about bullying, but manages to entertain in the process. Watching as a family would be an excellent way to approach the topic of bullying as it may affect the children in the household. A new kid in town is picked on mercilessly by her 4th grade classmates. A recently deceased grandpa is discussed with tears and smiles. One character is mildly injured in a diving accident. Children of diverse sizes and ethnicities are depicted.

What's the story?

In its first movie not focused on an historical figure, American Girl chooses a pertinent 21st-century topic with AMERICAN GIRL: CHRISSA STANDS STRONG. Engaging new girl in town Chrissa (Sammi Hanratty) is shy but determined to make new friends when she starts fourth grade at her new school in Minnesota. She doesn't count on the Mean Bee posse, led by blonde and brittle Tara (Adair Tishler), who do all they can in person and online to thwart Chrissa's determination to fit in. Well-meaning parents and a clueless teacher don't appreciate the depth of the problem that Chrissa is trying to handle alone. The bullying escalates to affect others in Chrissa's life before she realizes that she has to stand up for herself.

Is it any good?


Thanks to great casting, understated child actors, and a strong vein of humor (in the form of Chrissa's imagined torment of her oppressors) Chrissa Stands Strong manages to skim the melodramatic after-school special feel that it might otherwise have. Hanratty and Tischler are perfect foils, and the evolution of side characters from doormats to strong girls is nice to observe. It's a relief, too, to see these modern 10-year-olds dressing and acting like children, not tiny adults. Michael Learned makes an appearance as a widowed grandma with a penchant for llamas, 30 years after The Waltons.

But the most valuable part of this movie is the way that it can pry open the door between parents and kids about the issue of physical, mental, and cyber-bullying. The parents, played by Annabeth Gish and Timothy Bottoms, make some missteps in how they handle Chrissa's woes, as do school administrators. Kids and adults alike may come away from this movie with a heightened awareness of the dangers of bullying, a better sense of how to identify it, and best of all, some approaches for addressing it.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Chrissa's travails. Have you, or any of your friends, been subjected to similar treatment? How have you tried to solve the problem?

  • What are clues that a problem you may be having is too big for you to solve alone -- when should you involve an adult, whether it's on your behalf or on behalf of a friend?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:January 5, 2009
DVD release date:January 5, 2009
Cast:Annabeth Gish, Michael Learned, Sammi Hanratty
Director:Martha Coolidge
Genre:Family and Kids
Run time:90 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

This review of An American Girl: Chrissa Stands Strong was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent Written byjmc1 August 18, 2013

Overall Good, may be upsetting to younger kids.

A caution for parents of kids who are sensitive or are very fearful of bullying: my child (just turned 7) was disturbed by the relentless cruelty of the mean girls. She appeared upset and frightened in the first 30+ minutes of the movie and we almost turned it off. Granted, she's sensitive and a bit of a worrier. However, she's had some experience with mean, coercive-type quasi-bullying in 1st grade, and feels confident about how to handle it. I thought the behavior depicted was a bit extreme for the target age group. I'm well aware that the bad behavior in the movie may be mild compared to some realities, but still, the incidents of real cruelty and intimidation, paired with fear and feelings of powerlessness Chrissa displays -- while realistic -- may be too strong or frightening for *some* kids under age 8 or 9 to process. I also didn't like the diving board thing later on, and that the teacher/coach knew something was amiss but seemed totally unaware of the bullying until things really heated up. The resolution was somewhat weak, the mean(est) girl was unrealistically rehabilitated by the end and didn't suffer any real consequences. I did like the emphasis on the courage of one girl who also stood up the the main bully, and the part about another girl with a secret that she felt made her vulnerable. And a certain teacher caught on and gave excellent, timely, sensitive advice - which was really good. The takeaway was positive and hopeful. Basically, it was a good movie, depicting acts of bravery, courage and friendship. Good jumping-off point for discussion, for parents to broach the subject with kids.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much consumerism
Teen, 13 years old Written byMadelineMini April 8, 2015

Haha, I laughed! Great classic American Girl movie!

Tara is so funny and Chrissa is a bit of a coward. She doesn't even tell on Tara for bullying her. The bullying is a little unrealistic, but it's funny. It has good role models and a great message that no one should get bullied, plus that you should tell your parents or teacher if you're being bullied. It's wholesome, but a little depressing. Great for kids who are starting school!
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Kid, 11 years old May 17, 2011

Stand up to bullies!!

This is a good movie, but kind of depressing. In one of the scenes, Chrissa's brother gets hurt after the bully calls him a chicken and saying that he can't jump from the diving board. This has a good message though!!!
What other families should know
Too much violence
Great messages


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