Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 27
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
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For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

EVERYBODY, INCLUDING THE DOG, HAS TO PITCH IN: When misfortune strikes the Kittredge family during the Depression, Kit Kittredge (Amy Breslin) and her dog put together a mobile stand to sell eggs in order to help their family survive financially.

Kit Kittredge — An American Girl: Abigail Breslin Stars in Adaptation of Depression Era Whodunit

Kam Williams

Kit Kittredge, directed by Patricia Rozema, is the fourth of the American Girl series of illustrated children’s novels (along with Samantha, Felicity, and Molly) to be adapted into a movie. However, it’s the first of the four to be released in the movie theaters instead of as a made-for-television film. The story is based on a best seller by Valerie Tripp and Walter Rane which was aimed at second to fourth graders and stars “Little Miss Sunshine” Abigail Breslin in the title role as a spunky, 10-year-old aspiring journalist.

The story unfolds in Cincinnati in May of 1934 where we find the Kittredge family better off than most in the midst of the financial collapse which has engulfed much of the country. We learn that Kit’s father (Chris O’Donnell) has managed to keep his struggling car dealership afloat thus far, although the movie makes it clear that others haven’t been so lucky.

Initially oblivious of the financial crisis, precocious Kit visits the offices of the local daily newspaper, hoping to have her article on the Chicago World’s Fair published. After not being taken seriously as a reporter by the tabloid’s curmudgeonly editor (Wallace Shawn), she turns her attention to more age-appropriate matters, like swearing in her friend, Florence Stone (Erin Hilgartner), as the newest member of her secret Tree House Club.

However, misfortune catches up with Kit’s and Florence’s families when the bank forecloses on the Stones and they end up homeless and waiting in line to eat at a soup kitchen. Next, Kittredge Motors fails, and Kit’s father has to move to Chicago to look for employment. Meanwhile, to keep a roof over their heads, Mrs. Kittredge (Julia Ormond) decides to take in a few boarders, and a more colorful collection of characters you couldn’t hope to find.

There’s Lucinda Bond (Joan Cusack), a loony mobile librarian who can’t drive straight; May Dooley (Jane Krakowski), a down-and-out dance teacher in need of a shoulder to lean on; and Jefferson Jasper Renee Berk (Stanley Tucci), a masterful magician with tons of tricks up his sleeve.

The plot thickens when the city falls victim to a string of robberies and Kit becomes consumed with cracking the case a la Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. She witnesses a pickpocket in action and notices that the perpetrator has a telltale tattoo on his arm. When the cops finger an innocent hobo, Kit becomes determined to see that the right person is arrested for the crime.

Overall, Kit Kittredge: An American Girl is a wholesome adventure reminiscent of the best of Disney from its heyday during the fifties and sixties. With the engaging tale, period costumes, clean dialogue, timely universal themes with heartwarming messages, and the satisfying ending, you have to wonder why nobody makes movies like this anymore.

Excellent (4 stars). Rated G. Running time: 97 minutes. Studio: Picturehouse.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

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