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A girl. A wild mustang. A disapproving father. You get the picture. Flicka is a classic tearjerker but may be a little too old-fashioned for its own good.


Based on the beloved children's novel My Friend Flicka, the film is an archetypal story of a girl, 16-year-old Katy McLaughlin (Alison Lohman), who dreams of fulfilling her family legacy by working on her father Rob's (Tim McGraw) horse ranch in modern-day Wyoming. Although Rob wants more for his daughter and doesn't think she should settle for the ranching way of life, Katy is a free spirit. There's no taming her. Then she finds a wild mustang--and all bets are off. Katy names her Flicka, which isn't something you do with a booger but actually a Swedish term for "beautiful, innocent girl," and wants to train her. But like Katy, Flicka has a disdain for authority and is not about to give up her freedom without a fight [cue the song "Wild Fire"].


Although Lohman can certainly look the part, the 20-something actress may be getting a wee old to play the wide-eyed innocent teenager. She gives the part the proper amount of spunky backbone and an emotional core, but it seems, at times, she might be a little embarrassed playing such a silly role, especially given some of the other movies she's made recently (the highly sexual Where the Truth Lies comes to mind). Same goes for Maria Bello, as the loving, patient, wise [fill in any other appropriate adjective here] matriarch of the McLaughlin family. What's she doing this sap for? Given her stellar track record (The Cooler, A History of Violence), Bello is so much better than Flicka. In fact, McGraw is about the only one who looks like he should be in this movie, doing a nice job as the roughhewn rancher. But even he comes off a tad corny. That's OK, though. With Friday Night Lights as the country singer's only other feature performance, he's got some time to develop his skills.


Cinematically, it's hard to miss when your making a movie about horses and Wyoming. Director Michael Mayer (A Home at the End of the World) likes the grand sweeping mountain shots, as the herd of horses gallop together on the open plain. But there's only so many mountain vistas to be awed by before it grows tiresome. What's left, then, is the clichéd story. A family film, yes--one a parent can feel confident about, that might teach some lessons, or maybe just produce some well-earned tears. But honestly, Flicka will probably only truly appeal to girls who have posters of horses on their wall. Then again, in this day and age of text messaging, MySpace and So You Think You Can Dance?, are there any young girls left who love horses? Maybe girls under the age of six, who obsess over how many different colored My Little Ponys they have.

Bottom Line rated this film 2 stars.