A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Cowgirls 'n Angels 2 is not a sequel to Cowgirls 'n Angels. As in the first movie, the story takes place in a rodeo and ranch setting with lots of horses to admire, but Dakota's Summer has brand-new characters with a teen heroine and a fresh plot. Certain themes are familiar (for example, what constitutes a family, and competition); however, it's more grown-up fare. Tween and teen girls are the target audiences for this coming-of-age story with hints of romance. Child adoption is a key element in the film; it's dealt with in a clear, simple manner. Two mean girls provide some mild conflict with a bit of name-calling, but everything is easily resolved. This generally wholesome movie, with some moderately dramatic moments, is an earnest effort to provide strong messages along with an enjoyable story.
What's the story?
After a humiliating trick-riding rodeo loss in COWGIRLS 'N ANGELS: DAKOTA'S SUMMER, 17-year-old Dakota Rose (the very likable Haley Ramm), learns that she's an adopted child whose family has kept this devastating secret from her. It isn't the adoption itself that upsets her so terribly; it's the lifetime of lies. Furious and feeling very sorry for herself, Dakota decides to spend her summer at her grandparents' ranch. There, amid a newly acquired herd of miniature horses and a host of new friends and responsibilities, Dakota determines to find her "real" parents. When she does, she's torn between the charming woman who abandoned her and the family who raised her. Her growing relationships with a little girl from a foster home and her very wise grandfather (Keith Carradine) help Dakota make important choices and find comfort with her place in the world.
Is it any good?
The film is sweet and earnest and has more than a few compelling moments. Most of the performances are first-rate -- believable and engaging -- unlike so many "family-friendly" films made with limited budgets. Crafted with professionalism and integrity, it's an appealing story despite its predictability and simplistic resolutions. The rodeo sequences focus only on talented teen trick-riders, and they're fun to watch. (No questionable rodeo animal exploitation or harsh treatment is shown.) All in all, this is a heartwarming film that older kids and teens, especially girls, will enjoy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the "troubled" kids that came to Austin's ranch to spend time with the horses. What are your thoughts about why working with animals proves to be healing for "troubled" kids, people with physical challenges, and the elderly?
Think about and/or discuss all the types of families that are successful. What, besides being related, makes a family?
Do you agree with Dakota's method of handling Dawn and Julia (the mean girls)? Why did it work?
- On DVD or streaming: April 15, 2014
- Cast: Haley Ramm, Keith Carradine, Julie Ann Emery
- Director: Timothy Armstrong
- Studio: Sense & Sensibility Ventures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Brothers and sisters, Horses and farm animals
- Run time: 91 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mild thematic elements and brief language
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.