Flicka

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In case you’re not sure what “Flicka” is all about, the main character spells it out in the opening narration as she describes the Wyoming mountains where she lives. “I can see in them an expression of my own restless spirit,” she says floridly.

AAAAAhhhhh. She has a restless spirit, you see, and she’s smart and mature enough to recognize it and put it into words. Good for her.

The girl is a teenager named Katy McLaughlin (Alison Lohman), and when she’s not flunking out of her expensive boarding school, she lives on a rural ranch with her father (Tim McGraw), mother (Maria Bello) and older brother (Ryan Kwanten). She finds a wild mustang whose spirit is as restless as hers (in this case “restless” meaning “violent and insane”), and thus girl and horse become friends.

If the story and title sound vaguely familiar yet strangely modified, it’s because this is an ever-so-loose adaptation of the 1941 young adult novel “My Friend Flicka,” in which the main character was 9 years old and a boy and the horse came from Dad’s corral, not the wild. And the rest of the story is more or less completely different. But still! Based on the book.

Katy’s dad hates hates HATES mustangs and refuses to let Katy try to tame Flicka, much less ride her. Plus, he’s upset with her for the aforementioned out-of-boarding-school-flunking, which occurred as a result of Katy’s ill-defined rebelliousness and possible attention deficit disorder. Thus barred from interacting with Flicka, Katy has no choice but to sneak out to the pen at night to train her.

The director, Michael Mayer, doesn’t bring a lot to the table beyond basic competence, and the screenplay (by Mark Rosenthal and Lawrence Konner, the duo who brought you “Mona Lisa Smile”) leaves a lot of things blank. For example, we’re supposed to see Dad as some kind of misguided semi-villain who doesn’t understand his own daughter, and the major evidence of this comes when he sells Flicka to a rodeo man. Katy sobs and wails at the injustice, and we’re meant to sob and wail with her — but selling the horse is actually perfectly reasonable. They need the money, the rodeo man needs mustangs, and Katy isn’t allowed near the horse anyway. What’s the problem here?

But you see, I’m not a 14-year-old girl. My view of the world has not been colored by a love for horses and a central philosophy that life is, like, so unfair ‘n’ crap. Perhaps the film’s timeless message of kids being wiser than their parents will hit home with the tweenage audience. For the rest of us, the movie is inoffensive and forgettable, which is probably what they were going for.

C (1 hr., 34 min.; PG, a mild profanity or two.)

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