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Friday, October 20, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

"Flicka": A horse of a different culture

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 2.5 stars


Showtimes and trailer

"Flicka," with Alison Lohman, Tim McGraw, Maria Bello, Ryan Kwanten. Directed by Michael Mayer, from a screenplay by Mark Rosenthal and Lawrence Konner, based on the novel "My Friend Flicka" by Mary O'Hara. 94 minutes. Rated PG for brief mild language. Several theaters.

Be forewarned: The sweet-natured horse tale "Flicka" is not your mother's "My Friend Flicka." Nor is it my mother's, either; she, a fan of the 1941 Mary O'Hara novel, was horrified to hear of the liberties taken in this modern re-imagining.

Here, 10-year-old Ken McLaughlin (played by Roddy McDowell in the popular 1943 film) is transformed into 16-year-old Katy McLaughlin (Alison Lohman), who struggles to get along with her father (Tim McGraw). He wants her to go to college, she wants to stay on their Wyoming ranch. When she finds a wild mustang and sets out to tame her, complications ensue, including Katy dressing as a boy to try to win a rodeo contest. O'Hara, surely, would have raised an eyebrow.

But then again, she might have recognized that grade-school-age girls are hard up for non-princessy movies these days, and that while "Flicka" wanders far from its source, the results are still rather charming. The tiny Lohman (who's in her mid-20s but plays teenagers impeccably), sporting a wild tangle of hair, makes a tough but sweet heroine. She genuinely seems to find a spark of friendship in her scenes with the black horse Flicka. McGraw is a bit wooden, but that suits his stoic character; Maria Bello brings her usual warmth to the thankless role of Katy's earth-mother mom.

The Wyoming mountains provide a lovely backdrop to some breathtaking scenes, such as when Katy heads out on a just-before-dawn ride. And while Mark Rosenthal and Lawrence Konner's screenplay underlines a few points perhaps too emphatically (yes, we get that Katy identifies with Flicka's wild spirit), Michael Mayer's direction is genuinely poignant.

This "Flicka" may not be a classic, but it's a nice afternoon's entertainment, particularly for girls who ride wild horses in their dreams.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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