Flicka Only a Mediocre Family Film
by Alex Billington
October 20, 2006
Flicka is the heartfelt story about a teenage girl and a wild stallion she finds on her Wyoming ranch. The story begins by introducing the girl's troubles with her father and poor performance at school. This movie has all of the right elements of a story to fall in love with and delivers just that. Not one person with a true heart will leave the theater without a tear in their eye or without falling in love with Flicka. Country musician and Friday Night Lights star Tim McGraw delivers a powerfully emotional performance that, by itself, makes Flicka worth watching.
Katy McLaughlin (Alison Lohman), a 16-year-old daughter of a ranch owner, returns home from boarding school for the summer. At school she has become homesick and has lost focus on her studies. When she returns home Katy quickly gets back into the ranch life she loves. The first morning back she takes a ride on a horse and encounters a beautiful black wild stallion. Her father Rob (McGraw) requires that she do chores during the day and as a result Katy must sneak away to go exploring. Eventually she runs across the stallion again and tries to rope him, but he pulls lose and runs off to a herd of horses where her father is working. To prevent the lone stallion from ruining the herd, Rob ropes the stallion and puts him in a pen. Katy's affection for the horse, who she names Flicka, grows as she then attempts to train him during the night while everyone else sleeps. Eventually Rob finds out and scolds his daughter not only for disobeying his request to leave the stallion alone but also for her troubles at school.
Flicka is not on my list of great films this year, but it does top the list of great family films. The largest problem lies within the rough acting by lead Alison Lohman and also Maria Bello, who plays her mother. Their performances often times seemed forced and stale when they instead needed to be emotional. Tim McGraw provided the otherwise fantastic performance of the family, capturing all the detailed nuisances that make up a loving but strict father in opposition with his own feelings. Additional great performances were given by the two ranch hands Jack (Danny Pino) and Gus (Dallas Roberts) in brief appearances. A movie with a story like this needs strong performances to maintain its emotion and entertainment, and Flicka would not have been as enjoyable without McGraw, Pino, and Roberts.
Where Flicka does shine is in its quickly-progressing story. It can hold children's attentions and it can also leave parents smiling. Second-time director Michael Mayer (2004's A Home at the End of the World) includes some mundane, unnecessary scenes, but has generally put together a wonderful family film set in the beautiful mountains of Wyoming. Spotty acting is the only sacrifice to the otherwise impressive story, but despite it, audiences can still enjoy a heartfelt story of love and family.
Flicka does not stand out among the all-time great family films, but it does a great job of telling an emotional story that will bring tears to the eyes of many. Tim McGraw delivers one of the only redeeming performances in an otherwise lackluster set of acting. Flicka lives up fully to the expectations of being a family film with plenty of compassion and emotion but with not much more.