Over a Barrel
Priscilla (Sophie Bolen - The Christmas Bunny) has a good life at a New England boarding school where every day she gets lessons in riding her horse Lucky Lad so she can compete in a prestigious horse riding event in Britain. But when her mother and her rich new husband decide to go away for the summer Priscilla finds herself heading to Michigan to spend summer with her father, Duke Williams (Kevin Sorbo - Storm Rider), who she doesn't even know and going with her for the summer is her horse. Living on a ranch, devoid of the luxury trappings which she is use to is a shock for Priscilla but slowly things change as she not only bonds with her father but becomes fascinated with learning to race barrels rather than show jumping.
I wonder who first came up with the idea of the horse ranch movie, where a child goes to stay with an estranged parent and through their love of horses end up bonding. I also wonder if that person realised what they were letting the world in for because every year I seem to stumble across yet another movie which uses the same basic storyline with just a few variations here and there to prevent it from being a complete copycat movie. All of which brings me to "Rodeo Girl" a 2016 offering on this horse/ranch storyline and whilst it has some original elements it is mostly a repeat of other horse movie just for the next generation who might not find the likes of "Flicka" entertaining because it is older.
But what this means is that "Rodeo Girl" is a movie which is familiar and is one which is also highly telegraphed and lacking realism when it comes to how the story plays out. When there is some skulduggery going on involving horse tampering causing Lucky Lad to fall ill you can pretty much guess that within 24 hours all will be right again. There are also the inevitable problems which Duke faces trying to be a dad to a daughter who to begin with is being intentionally awkward and snobbish. Thankfully the whole barrel racing part of "Rodeo Girl" is entertaining and there are other tiny bits of storyline which helps to lift it a little.
The real strength of "Rodeo Girl", or at least the thing which helps make it watchable, is the casting. Both Sophie Bolen and Kevin Sorbo confidently play their characters as does Derek Brandon as Sage, a young rodeo rider who works for Duke and you guessed it ends up close to Priscilla. It is a good job to as during the opening scenes which take us to the posh boarding school the overacting is horrendous and puts you right off. It also helps that Kevin Sorbo and Sophie Bolen have a natural likeable nature which allows you to warm to their characters even when they are a bit too generic.
What this all boils down to is that "Rodeo Girl" is a good but familiar movie where we have a girl on a ranch who loves horse riding and ends up bonding with the father she doesn't even know. It means for those who have already watched many a horse movie it will be familiar but for younger audiences might enjoy it more.