In Flicka, the latest adaptation of Mary O'Hara's children's classic My Friend Flicka, Alison Lohman stars as a teenager with a rebellious streak and a thirst for freedom that recalls the Western settlers who first staked their claim on her Wyoming territory. Early in the film, she encounters a black mustang, the wildest of the wild horses that roam this landscape in diminishing numbers. Apparently, the girl and the horse have a few things in common–that is, if the voiceover narration, the dialogue, the parallel images, and Lohman's freewheeling personal essay on the American West are to be believed. Can these kindred spirits be tamed? Or will they at least lose enough of an edge to assuage the animals that have to live with them every day?
Give Flicka credit for one thing: It stays on message. Set against the gorgeous backdrop of a Wyoming mountain range–a view this time unobstructed by the gay cowboys who so alarm family audiences–the film offers up fantasy footage for every strong-willed girl who ever straddled a saddle, and little more. Returning to the family ranch after failing out of boarding school, Lohman runs into trouble with her father Tim McGraw, who curses her iron-willed stubbornness, even though she's clearly daddy's little girl. When Lohman finds a black mustang in the woods, facing off against a ferocious mountain lion, she insists that McGraw let her take the horse in and train her alongside the quarter horses. When the mustang causes little but trouble, papa sells her to the rodeo, which prompts Lohman to take drastic measures.
Though the hero has changed genders from the novel and the TV show, Flicka doesn't do much to embellish the girl-and-her-horse story or bring color to Lohman's generalized rebellion. In fact, the film really doesn't do much at all, though the solid performances and high production values supply some of the old-fashioned appeal of this year's Lassie. And just as Lassie banked on money shots of the collie bounding in slow motion across the countryside, Flicka comes alive whenever those herds of wild horses gallop through mountain fields, shaking their lustrous, streaming manes like Charlie's Angels. To a certain subset of the population, they're no doubt just as rousing to behold.