A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Rodeo Girl is a straight-to-DVD production that presumes to show the progress of a spoiled horseback-riding East Coast teenage girl forced to spend the summer with her absentee dad in rural Michigan. Although the girl seems a lot nicer by the end, nothing in the script really demonstrates why this might be the case. A teenage boy kisses a teenage girl. A teenage boys try to run a girl on her horse off the road and ends up driving into a tree instead. A boy slashes someone's tires. A boy poisons someone else's horse. An accident that caused a man's knee to be crushed under a horse is loosely described. A tornado passes through and people run to shelter. No damage is seen. A teenage boy tries to attack another boy with a pitchfork.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Priscilla (Sophie Bolen) is the RODEO GIRL of the title, a spoiled 14-year-old raised in New England by a seemingly wealthy and spoiled mother who is about to be married. Mom wants to take a four-month cruise with her fiancé and for convenience ships Priscilla off to the father she has never known at his farm in rural Michigan. Priscilla is not happy, but the blow is softened when her English saddle horse is sent along so she can continue to practice jumping. She behaves rudely and disrespectfully to everyone until she decides she wants to barrel race in a rodeo, not knowing her father was a rodeo champ who crushed his leg in a riding accident. They switch to a Western saddle, Priscilla takes a few tepid turns around some barrels, and, bingo, she wins third place. When the mother returns, without fiancé and needing to sell the horse, Dad must step in to show how much he loves his girl.
Is it any good?
This low-budget, independently financed and distributed film suffers from many of the technical and artistic failings that working under such restrictions poses. With the exception of Kevin Sorbo as Duke (he played the lead in the TV series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys), the actors are largely mediocre to terrible, because good actors often cost money. Every setup for a new scene costs time and money, too, so lighting and staging are generally bad to awful, which affects the viewing experience negatively far more than one might expect. In one scene meant to have emotional impact, Duke proposes to his long-term girlfriend. The words are romantic, but his face is in deep shadow, completely blacking out his expressions as he speaks his heart. When Priscilla practices barrel racing, she rides slowly around the obstacles. Then she somehow comes in third on her first try, riding at four times the speed.
Even worse, the script makes no effort to show how the spoiled, disrespectful Priscilla evolves in only a few short months into a good-natured and decent person. The mother, willing to ship her daughter off to an absentee father so she can take a four-month cruise with her fiancé, is touted as a great mother by story's end, despite the fact that all the available evidence points to the contrary. The father compliments the mother for the good job she did on the daughter in spite of the fact that the daughter was absolutely vile until she spent a few months with the dad. Director-producer Joel Paul Reisig, a young Michigan-based entrepreneur, not only directs and produces films but also offers a course in fundraising and making films, underscoring the difficulty of making underfunded projects.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about a mother leaving her child for four months to go on a cruise. Do you think this is a realistic situation? Do you think it's plausible that a mother would not have any idea that her ex was trying to stay in touch with their daughter? As a viewer, do holes in the plot like these bother you, or can you ignore them?
Do you think the movie expects viewers to believe that Priscilla has become a better person as a result of spending four months in Michigan? What happened there that might have made her more respectful and considerate? Does this movie try to make the case that a simple country life is better than a city life? Do you believe that's true?