Mary O'Hara's classic 1941 novel My Friend Flicka gets another treatment in the film adaptation Flicka.  This time around, the filmmakers dropped the "My Friend" from the title, adjusted the story by placing it in the present (as opposed to earlier in the century), and most noticeably changed the gender of the protagonist.  Ken McLaughlin is now Katy McLaughlin, the headstrong daughter of a rancher.  The result is a mixed bag.  It's not a bad movie, but not a very good one either.  Flicka feels very cookie cutter, with little original or genuine emotion in the story or its characters.  Sure, the filmmakers try to elicit emotion with the story of a girl and her wild horse, but unfortunately, everything rings a bit false.

Katy (Alison Lohman, Where the Truth Lies, Big Fish) is flunking out of private school.  She hates regurgitating to teachers what they want to hear.  She's a free spirit, who would rather spend time on her father's ranch in Wyoming.  Her father Rob (Tim McGraw, Friday Night Lights, Black Cloud) wants her to make up the class over the summer, while Katy just wants to be around the horses.  The father/daughter dynamic is what director Michael Mayer (A Home at the End of the World) and screenwriters Mark Rosenthal and Lawrence Konner (Mona Lisa Smile, Planet of the Apes) wanted as the emotional core of the story, but it is a bit too simplistic.  Rob wants his daughter to have an education.  He doesn't want her to run the ranch (they never explain why).  Katy wants to run the ranch.  As her mother Nell (Mario Bello, World Trade Center, Thank You For Smoking) points out to Rob in every commercial and preview "SHE'S YOU."  It's the standard plot device where the parent doesn't want the child to do something, but for no good reason.

A wild mustang is thrown into this combustible equation, making things worse.  The McLaughlins raise thoroughbreds, and times are hard.  People instead want mustangs for rodeos.  Katy discovers one, and eventually the family captures it.  Katy wants to train and keep it, while Rob forbids her from interacting with the horse.  It's no surprise that Katy sneaks out at night to try to coax and tame the animal.  Why?  Because as Katy says in every commercial and preview, they're "THE SAME."  By definition, this would make Rob the same as Flicka.  A bit sad, since "Flicka" is Swedish for "girl."

Flicka the movie looks absolutely stunning.  The Wyoming vistas of the McLaughlin ranch are open and inviting, and it's easy to see why Katy never wants to leave, and is incensed when the idea of selling the land emerges.  It's also eerie how Lohman, who will by 30 in three years, continues for the most part to play characters far younger than she does.  She has adolescent rage down pat, as McGraw has the stern taskmaster father, but again, much of Flicka feels empty, like all the actors are going through the paces.  It remains a nice family movie, but doesn't do anything more to make it memorable.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 50 minutes, Rated PG for some mild language.

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