A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Kid West is a short feature film about a girl who finds her place in a new town by carrying on the "work" of her recently deceased dad, a sheriff. Meeting a new friend, learning to cope with her difficult but caring mom, and solving the mystery of a Native American artifact combine to help her adapt. Villains include a man with a long-held grudge and young teen bullies who threaten, torment, and assault "Kid West" and her friends. Some of the action is slapstick -- a slingshot with direct hits, tomatoes bombing a cluster of boys -- and some is more real, with two young girls in peril, chases, a snarling dog, kids held captive, a rifle threat, and fights. While the Native American characters are portrayed positively, a young tough frequently uses "Pocahontas" as a slur to intimidate. In addition, viewers can expect a smattering of cursing and insults: "damn," "dingbat," "stupid dad," "wuss." A man smokes.
What's the story?
Harper (Mary Bair) is an engaging and determined little girl in KID WEST. Unfortunately, her world has turned upside down when, after the death of her sheriff dad ("in the line of duty"), she and her mom, Faye (Ashley Rose Montondo), must move from their home in Missouri to Minnesota. Their transition is strained by what has come before and by what they find in the new town. Faye's nursing job is tenuous. Harper, who insists on being called "Kid West," is left alone much of the time. And she quickly comes face to face with a squad of teen bullies, who are bent on intimidating her. Kid West isn't easy prey, however. She gives back as good as she gets. When a recently uncovered Native American artifact is stolen and our heroine meets Angela (Atquetzali Quiroz), a preteen neighbor and member of the Ojibwe tribe, Kid West's prospects for adventure are on the upswing. She's determined to find the artifact and solve a legendary Ojibwe mystery. Standing in her way are an interfering sheriff (Bruce Bohne), her less-than-sympathetic mom, and the all-too-present bullies.
Is it any good?
Young Mary Bair, as Harper, almost saves this otherwise routine and amateurish effort with her bright eyes, contagious smile, and passion for adventure. Kid West fails any logic test -- events occur simply because they are convenient, not because they're organic to the tale. Bullies and villains are stereotypes -- in the case of the snarling bullies, always having dirty faces is probably meant to suggest neglect. Director Jesse Mast works with the material he has and the many newbie actors he's hired, but it's a challenge, and the results are substandard. On the plus side, it's heartening to get a Native American point of view, at least part of the time, and show the bond between girls of different races and ages come together.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about movies like Kid West in which a child has lost a parent and/or has to move to a new community. How do these events help a filmmaker introduce and build a sympathetic character?
Big changes can cause big problems, especially for kids. What changes have you had to make in your life? How did you embrace those changes?
Have you thought about how a person becomes a bully? What experiences do you think might account for a bully's behavior? What are some positive ways to deal with bullying?
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