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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that An American Girl: Grace Stirs Up Success is the live-action film promoting the 2015 Doll of the Year, Grace, an ambitious girl who's passionate about baking. The film is jam-packed with positive lessons about drive, staying cool under pressure, merging stepfamilies (and welcoming a new baby), and striving for excellence, all while keeping a level head and appreciating all members of the team. It's best for elementary school-age kids who will relate to navigating sibling and stepfamily conflicts, learning how to take criticism, and keeping a positive attitude about setbacks.
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What's the story?
In AN AMERICAN GIRL: GRACE STIRS UP SUCCESS, Grace (Olivia Rodrigo) is an aspiring baker, and, as far as her grandparents are concerned, she's a master chef already. She intends to spend the summer baking and selling cupcakes with friends to raise money for a new bike. But when her family must suddenly go to Paris for the summer to visit ailing Aunt Sophie, Grace gets a rare -- and humbling -- chance to see her Uncle Bernard's French bakery in action. She quickly learns that her current skills won't pass muster in France and finds herself learning all over again, struggling to balance her impatience with her desire to be the best, while also fighting to win over her French cousin Sylvie (Eloise Webb). When Grace gets home, her friends aren't as excited to hear everything she's learned as she thought they would be, nor is her grandparents' bakery doing well. To help solve the problem, she'll have to use everything she's learned so far while keeping cool under pressure.
Is it any good?
This movie is a whirlwind of ambition and positive lessons. Grace is a perfectionist who is driven to excellence, but she often gets in her own way by being impatient and too eager to do things just right. For type-A overachievers, this is a relatable story about slowing down, being willing to learn new things, and understanding that everyone has an important role on a team. Plus, there are some realistic conflicts with Grace's friends when they struggle to feel appreciated in the shadow of such an ambitious character.
At 102 minutes, An American Girl: Grace Stirs Up Success is a better story for slightly older elementary schoolers, who will need the attention span to get through a few changes in scenery and a funny, extended MasterChef Junior TV segment that's part of the third act. Plus, for some kids, Grace's relentless pep and drive might be a tad exhausting. But that's a quibble in a film that has a refreshing commitment to promoting girls as smart, headstrong leaders who are driven and fun -- even if it's all to market a doll.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Grace's ambition in An American Girl: Grace Stirs Up Success. How does her passion for baking inform her personality and choices? What are you passionate about?
Do you have to be a fan of American Girl dolls to enjoy this movie? Why, or why not?
What's the movie's message about ambition and taking criticism? How does Grace learn to improve her skills and work with others without letting her ego get in the way?
- On DVD or streaming: June 23, 2015
- Cast: Virginia Madsen, Eloise Webb, Olivia Rodrigo
- Director: Vince Marcello
- Studio: Universal Studios
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Adventures, Book Characters, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models
- Character Strengths: Communication, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 102 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Seal
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