Mayer's Mustang Melodrama
If you like schmaltz and enjoy the occasional Hallmark movie then there is a very good chance that you will enjoy "Flicka", I know I did. It's certainly not a very good movie compared to other big screen horse movies, it's so sentimental and unsubtle that being hit round the head with a log would be less painful but its heart is in the right place. And get beyond the lack of subtlety and there is a sweet tale, some nice landscapes and plenty to be entertained by. "Flicka" may not be as good as the original "My Friend Flicka" from 1943 but the change in character from making the lead a girl instead of a boy adds a nice angle to things and allows for the delightful Alison Lohman to shine.
Katy McLaughlin's (Alison Lohman - Matchstick Men) heart is on working on the family ranch, so much so that she is flunking out of boarding school. Having headed home for the summer Katy finds herself a wild mustang on the ranch land and feels a deep connection to the wild horse, setting herself the task of taming this creature she names Flicka to prove to her father that she can be a rancher. But with the ranch going through hard times and her father Rob (Tim McGraw - The Blind Side) determined that Katy should finish school and go on to college it seems like mission impossible especially when tragedy strikes following the local rodeo.
Now to be honest I like the storyline, I enjoyed the various moments of action and I think the casting in "Flicka" was pretty good so I might as well get the big criticism out of the way with first and that is it is as subtle as a brick. It honestly feels like director Michael Mayer watched Hallmark movies for a month before directing this because it is as sweet, schmaltzy and sentimental as any TV movie you will see and in fact if this had been made for TV it would have stood out as being quite special.
Right from the opening scenes where we watch Katy McLaughlin day dreaming away thinking about her parent's ranch when she should be writing an essay it turns the dial up on the schmaltz to the max. And all the way through every aspect of the storyline is hit home from Katy being at one with the wild horse she tames through to the understanding which her father gains about how much the ranch means to her. It's so unsubtle that for many it could spoil "Flicka", but for those who do enjoy the occasional Hallmark movie will enjoy the sweet charm of it.
Anyway that's my one real big criticism out of the way with as everything else pretty much worked especially the storyline. It may all be a little bit predictable that Katy will lock horns with her father over the wild horse she names Flicka and her love of the ranch but it provides a nice basis for a charming feel good movie. Yes, you can guess what scenes are going to show up, the danger of the wild animals out on the land and Katy's attempts to go against her father's wishes in order to keep Flicka but the pieces work, they come together to tell a feel good tale. Maybe there could have been a bit more originality, maybe the whole rodeo series of scenes could have been a bit more realistic but this is a sweet tale aimed at a young female audience and it kind of works.
And what also works is the acting especially from Alison Lohman as Katy and Tim McGraw as her father Rob. Okay both Lohman and McGraw do over act thanks to the lack of subtlety of the scenes but they create characters which we can warm to. You end up feeling for Katy because Lohman gets across how much ranching means to her and delivers that perfect blend of being cute but also wild, some may see that as annoying but in a movie which fails to ever be subtle the harsh contrast of cute and wild works. And at the same time you end up feeling for Rob as Tim gets across all the aspects of his character from the rancher who worries about his daughter doing what for many is a man's job and at the same time fretting over the financial future of the ranch. Both Lohman and McGraw make it work and are aided by some equally good performances from Maria Bello and Ryan Kwanten.
What this all boils down to is that "Flicka" is an entertaining movie with a charming tale once you get beyond the lack of subtlety. It's the sort of movie which you will enjoy if you like the sort of sentimental and schmaltzy dramas which show up on Hallmark and in many ways feels like a better made TV movie.