A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Greening of Whitney Brown is a combination horse tale and fish-out-of-water story about a spoiled rich girl who "finds herself" after her parents lose their fortune and the family moves to a farm. There's nothing too objectionable beyond a bit of iffy language (mostly insults and the like), but the themes and subject matter (middle-school protagonist, mild romance, family drama) make this a better fit for tweens rather than younger elementary-school aged kids.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Whitney Brown (Sammi Hanratty) is a spoiled, rich middle-schooler living in Philadelphia's exclusive suburbs. Soon after she's elected student council president at her elite private school, her extravagant spending habits come to a halt when her financier father, Henry (Aidan Quinn), loses the family fortune. Along with her mother, Joan (Brooke Shields), Whitney and Henry are forced to abandon their posh lifestyle and move to Henry's family farm, where there's no WiFi or cell service, and out-of-touch grandpa Dusty (Kris Kristofferson) lives like a hermit in the tiny ranch bordering the property. Now enrolled at a rural public school, Whitney finds solace in the farm's Gypsy Vanner horse, Bob, and learns a thing or two about what's really important.
Is it any good?
Whitney isn't a particularly likable protagonist -- she's spoiled and self centered, like most rich kids in movies. "Country living" is supposed to cure her of her bratty behavior, but even once she learns to love Bob, get dirty, and sew, she's still not the sort of character most viewers will cheer. At the very least, Hanratty is a slightly better actress than her private-school pals, some of whom are so over the top with their cringe-worthy eye rolling and hair tossing that it's hard to watch them on screen.
What makes this particular tween confection unbearably unrealistic is how zen Whitney's parents are about their downward turn in fortune. Joan restarts a tradition by her late mother-in-law to make homemade jams on the farm, and even Henry seems more or less at peace with his return to the working class. Adding to the predictable plot is how Grandpa and Whitney get to know each other so well that they're sharing secrets by the end of the movie. Of all the characters in the movie, Bob the horse is clearly the most relatable. He just wants someone to ride him and show him the way. Horse-loving tweens may get a kick out of this story, but otherwise, you've already seen this fish out of water tale dozens of times.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether "reverse Cinderella" stories are as popular as "Cinderella" ones. What makes audiences want to see certain types of characters "put in their place"? Are those kinds of characters realistic? Does that matter?
What did Whitney learn about friendship and family while she was at the farm? Which of her friendships was unconditional, and which was based on her status?
Are tweens and teens as obsessed with money, designer brands, and luxury goods as Whitney and her first set of friends are? Is "class" an issue when it comes to school friendships?
- In theaters: November 11, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: January 3, 2012
- Cast: Aidan Quinn, Brooke Shields, Sammi Hanratty
- Director: Peter Skillman Odiorne
- Studio: ARC Entertainment
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Run time: 87 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: brief mild language
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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