“No one’s riding that loco thing!”
Well, of course as soon as we hear that line we know someone’s going to have to ride it. And in this very fine family film, the rider will be Katy (Alison Lohman), just home from boarding school to her family’s ranch “on the top of the world in the never-summer mountains of Wyoming.” That loco thing is a beautiful wild black mustang Katy has named Flicka (Swedish for pretty girl). To her father, Flicka is a bother, a danger, and a potential source of revenue. To Katy, Flicka is a part of her, something to love and care for, something to ride until she feels they are one animal, flying.
Katy’s father Rob (Tim McGraw) raises quarterhorses. Her mother Nell (Maria Bello) is the kind of woman who can read a fax while she’s whipping up wild gooseberry pancakes with creme fraiche, and who always has some warm, wise, and encouraging thing to say, like, “It’s easy to be a rancher with good luck” and “Anger is just fear on the way out.”
Rob does not like mustangs. He thinks of them as four-legged parasites who could damage the value of his herd if they begin to cross-breed. He orders Katy to stay away and not to try to ride Flicka. Rob is worried about whether he can keep the ranch going. He is so worried that he has not noticed what we figured out the moment we saw that Katy’s brother Howard (Ryan Kwanten) wears a baseball cap, not a cowboy hat — that he does not plan to stick around.
Rob sells Flicka to a rodeo. Katy’s only chance of getting her back is to win $8000 riding her in a wild horse race. And let’s not forget the mountain lion, sneaking off with Howard’s girlfriend to the swimming hole, some close calls for both human and equine characters, enough “that’s crazy!” “that’s insane!” comments to have a successful drinking game, and a lot of shots of blue skies and mountains.
Country star McGraw brings the same tenderness to the role that he does to his songs, and he and Bello have a nice, easy chemistry. The story has a nice, old-fashioned feel, sweetly sincere, and kids will respond to the way that Rob and Katy have to learn to appreciate how much they share and how much they have.
Parents should know that the movie has some scenes of peril and illness. Characters are injured and the issue of humane killing is raised. There are tense emotional confrontations. Married characters make a mild reference to sex and there is some teenage kissing.
Families who see this movie should talk about how parents respond when their children do — and do not — want the same careers they did. Kate’s parents both loved her — why did they feel differently about what was the right thing to do? Why was Flicka so important to Kate? What do you think about the comments Rob makes about kids in the mall?
Families who see this movie will also enjoy the original, My Friend Flicka, and some of the classic family movies about horses, especially The Black Stallion and National Velvet two of the best movies ever made on any subject and for any age group. They might like to read William Saroyan’s “The Summer of the Beautiful White Horse” and Marguerite Henry’s “Misty of Chincoteague.”