THE GREENING OF WHITNEY BROWN (2011)
Starring Sammi Hanratty, Aidan Quinn, Brooke Shields, Kris Kristofferson, Charlotte Matthews, Slade Pearce, Anna Colwell, Keith David, Natalia Dyer, Lily Rashid, Kodie Lake, Cameron Gaskins, Tim Lake and Dick Vermeil.
Screenplay by Gail Gilchriest.
Directed by Peter Odiorne.
Distributed by Arc Entertainment. 87 minutes. Rated PG.
The Greening of Whitney Brown is a cute enough but completely predictable movie about a big city girl learning to appreciate life and work by moving to a farm and falling in love with an apparently magical horse.
Of course, The Greening of Whitney Brown is made for young teen girls, not middle-aged male movie reviewers. Girls from four to twelve should eat this up with a spoon. For them, most of this is still fresh.
For the rest of us, well, the soft and mostly harmless pun in the movie title will give you a basic idea of the film’s pleasant but unthreatening (and slightly vanilla) storytelling style. As you can see in the movie poster, if the idea of a horse riding in a convertible tickles your funny bone, you are in for a treat with this gently charming fish-out-of-water story. (Although the actual sight gag lasts only a matter of seconds in the film.) If you think it is a ridiculous idea, then there is no point going any further.
Whitney Brown is the story of a tween-aged go-getter, class president and campus star in a swank suburban Philadelphia private school. (Imagine a younger version of Reese Witherspoon’s character in Election.) She is on top of the world – she has friends, a hot guy who is interested in her, she’s smart, funny, pretty and at the top of the social pecking order at school.
Then tragedy strikes – or at least what passes for tragedy in Whitney’s privileged world – her dad loses his job, due to like, the bad economy and all. Even worse, her credit card is maxed out buying Vera Wang dresses for the big dance. Turns out that dad is broke, jobs are hard to find and the family has to move back to his boyhood home a couple of hours away from her friends.
Suddenly, Whitney is stuck in the boonies, not in her beloved life in Philadelphia (although, other than a bit of gorgeous stock footage and photos, the role of Philadelphia is actually played by the not-particularly-similar-looking Atlanta). The house is old and dusty (although not quite as dusty as a house that has supposedly been unlived in for years would be.) There are bugs and mud and manure and worst of all, bad cell phone reception. And there is a horse in the living room! A horse! In the living room! OMG! SMH!
At first, Whitney can’t be bothered with the stinky old horse. (I don’t know, you would have to think that any girl – no matter how citified she may be – would be pretty excited about having a horse.) Eventually, however, this amazingly perceptive, loyal and smart equine (if he were a dog, he’d be barking about Little Timmy being stuck in a well) teaches Whitney a lesson about true friendship. Going to a new school teaches her that city folk and country mice aren’t really all that different. And living at the farm teaches her about what is important in life – hard work, good friends, and the love of a super-smart horse.
Old pros Brooke Shields, Aidan Quinn and Kris Kristofferson aren’t given all that much to do as Whitney’s parents and crotchety grandpa, but they acquit themselves just fine, bringing a bit of heft to somewhat lightweight roles. Shields, in particular, makes her slightly clichéd character lovable. And Kristofferson is a national treasure, so even in a pretty basic role like this – which he could play in his sleep – he brings texture and gruff nuance.
Some of the problems passed off in the storyline as traumatic seem a little ridiculous. For example, if you really want the hunky guy back home to know you are thinking of him, call him yourself instead of leaving messages with your scheming former bestie. However, if you are looking for harsh realism, you are in the wrong place.
If you are looking for a cute little family-values parable about the rewards of slowing down your life, then pull up a chair – you’ve found the right movie.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2011 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: November 11, 2011.