A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie is part of the hugely popular American Girls doll/book/entertainment juggernaut. While the content is quite tame overall, a child does sneak out of her house each morning even though her parents have forbidden it. She first steals -- then eventually sets free -- a mistreated horse without significant repercussions. Another character runs away from a contractual agreement to follow his political beliefs but eventually returns and works out a compromise. A beloved grandfather dies, and his passing is treated with dignity and love. A father is jailed for his political beliefs, and a mother nearly dies in childbirth. Reflecting the Revolutionary War era, African Americans are shown only in roles of silent servitude.
What's the story?
Bringing another American Girl doll to life, FELICITY: AN AMERICAN GIRL ADVENTURE provides a hefty dose of American history as its story unfolds. Felicity (Shailene Woodley) is celebrating her 10th birthday in 1775 Williamsburg. With that milestone come new expectations that sit uncomfortably on the independent, horse-loving girl: She must now learn to be a lady. Meanwhile, Felicity discovers a beautiful thoroughbred horse -- whom she names Penny -- being mistreated by drunken neighbor Jiggy Nye (Geza Kovacs). With the complicity of her store-owning father's apprentice, Ben Davidson (Kevin Zegers), she tames the horse. But she herself isn't so easily tamed, chafing under the limitations of her schooling with Miss Manderly (Janine Theriault). Felicity commiserates with Ben, who wants to escape his apprenticeship to fight with the patriots who are arming for the Revolutionary War.
Is it any good?
As Felicity, Woodley is energetic, though some of her dialogue sounds like it belongs on a cross-stitch sampler. This movie will appeal to girls who love horses and/or the American Girls. And with its talented cast and period-appropriate settings, it's a movie that parents can appreciate as well. Its Christmas Day climax makes it perfect for enjoying over the holidays as well.
The movie's attention to historical detail -- and its clear explanations of the tensions between loyalists and patriots during this era -- give it educational value that complements the suspenseful tale of Felicity's efforts to save Penny. Particularly thoughtful are the acknowledged tensions that arise between friends and family with different political views.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how expectations for girls have changed since Felicity's time. Do you think Felicity's actions are typical for Revolutionary War-era girls? What did you learn about life during this era? There are both British loyalists and American patriots in the movie, and they find ways to remain friends. Do you think those friendships lasted through the whole war? Families can also discuss Felicity's decision to spend time with Penny. It worked out well for her, but what risks did she take? What other, safer ways could she have found to be with the horse?
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