The Greening of Whitney Brown

Sammi Hanratty and Bob star in "The Greening of Whitney Brown"

Grade: B

Who Should See It: Tween girls and the people who love them.

Rating: PG with nothing that pushes the PG envelope.

Bottom Line: This story about real friendship features a beautiful relationship between a girl and a horse with a refreshing innocence. It’s as good as Hannah Montana, or as painful, depending on your perspective.

Full review after the jump.

Whitney Brown (Sammi Hanratty) is forced by financial troubles to leave her private school, credit cards, and iPhone to move to her father’s boyhood farmhouse. The rundown home has a squatter: a huge horse named Bob. As Whitney adjusts to life without her friends, her separation from the boy she likes, and her distressing lack of good shopping, she finds that Bob is her only friend. Adjusting to the social mores of country life is difficult, anticipating the betrayal of her best friend back home is even more difficult.

The film suffers from some unlikely plot devices, as when the phone company cannot manage to connect a land line, leaving Whitney completely cut off from her friends for weeks. In another scene, she causally hops a freight train, as if that was normal behavior for preteens.

However, Hanratty lights up the screen with her big eyes and bigger smile, giving a performance winning enough to keep attention. She acts alongside Brooke Shields and Aidan Quinn as her parents and Kris Kristofferson as her cranky, irresponsible grandfather.

The best moments, however, are between Bob and Whitney. It is a common little girl fantasy to have a horse as a best friend and the movie pulls off the budding relationship with feeling and humor.

The message will hit preteen girls right where they live: learning what is true about friendship and untrue about popularity contests. Parents will like the maturity Whitney gains as well as the lack of anything cynical or inappropriate in the film. It’s similar to Hannah Montana, but without the singing, in its style and quality. That’s meant to be a compliment because little girls need all the help they can get learning how to move into the next stage of their development. Turns out, a horse is a pretty good way to go.

But don’t tell your daughter I said that.

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