“The Adventures of Ociee Nash” is 10 pounds of quaint in a five-pound bag. It is so adorably precious that you’ll just wanna love it and squeeze it and put it in a sack and throw it in the lake. If it were a person, you would find it cute for about 10 minutes, and then you would flee its presence at all costs, taking the lives of innocent bystanders in your haste.
The movie, a family-friendly period piece not to be confused with “The Adventures of Pluto Nash,” which was bad for different reasons, is suspect even in its title. Ociee Nash (Skyler Day), the 9-year-old Southern tomboy who serves as protagonist, engages in only one activity that can be called an “adventure,” and it comes late in the film. The rest of her experiences are benign, sunny and conflict-free — hardly the stuff of which “adventures” are made, at least according to my concept of the term. “The Dull Life of Ociee Nash” wouldn’t have been a very appealing title, I guess, but it would have been more accurate.
The year is 1898, and Ociee lives on a farm in Mississippi with her Pa (Keith Carradine) and older brothers. Her Ma died not long ago, and Pa doesn’t rightly know how to raise a girl to become a proper young lady, so he sends her to live with his sister, Mamie (Mare Winningham), in Asheville, N.C. Aunt Mamie is loving but reserved, and is surprised that a young girl would climb trees and wear dungarees and things of that nature. She gets Ociee into a dress, and then Ociee gets herself into all sorts of adventures!
No, just kidding. There are no adventures. She meets a few famous people, Forrest Gump-style, on the train ride to North Carolina, and she performs a mild act of heroism in Asheville, but none of this is accompanied by any sense of dramatic tension or plot-building. A subplot regarding Aunt Mamie and her demure courtship with Mr. Lynch (Tom Key) adds nothing, as does the presence of a man Ociee meets who is a gypsy (Anthony P. Rodriguez).
It’s all quaint, slice-of-life material, sort of a female version of Huckleberry Finn, but without any underlying theme or purpose. It was directed by Kristen McGary and written by her and her sister Amy McGary, adapting Milam McGraw Propst’s novel “A Flower Blooms on Charlotte Street.” Both McGarys have worked in Hollywood as set decorators and such but have not made a feature film before. The direction is competent from a technical standpoint, and clearly a good deal of love went into making the film. But that doesn’t excuse its flat, simple-minded narrative, or its dearth of interesting characters. The movie is simply a series of events, none more interesting than any other, propelled only by Ociee’s pluckiness and resourcefulness — which, as I said, become fatal after a few minutes. The viewer should beware.
D (1 hr., 38 min.; )