Solid remake of 1943's family front-runner My Friend Flicka. Horse-sense goes out of the barn window when headstrong ranch girl Katy (Alison Lohman) tries to rein in four-legged firebrand Flicka. They're both as stubborn as mules, so who's going to break first? Interestingly, Lohman is 10 years older than the character she plays, yet Tim McGraw and Maria Bello certainly act their age as her long-suffering parents.
This update of the 1941 novel and 1943 film retains the wholesome messages and love of gee-gees (yet switches the main character from a boy to a girl) with the well-cast Alison Lohman as a wilful teen whose true passion lies in the traditionally male job of horse-ranching.
Katy (Lohman, twenty-five but passing for ten years younger) is a bright girl with bad grades at the private boarding school her family scrimp and save to put through, while their ranching business teeters on financial collapse.
Discovering a wild, young female mustang she christens Flicka (Swedish for "pretty girl"), over the course of one eventful summer Katy will face adult choices, near tragedy in a well-staged rodeo gone awry, and come to realize she and her strong-willed father are not as different as she petulantly believes.
Director Mayer demonstrates a lighter, more relaxed touch here than in his turgid debut, A Home at the End of the World.
He can't resist some sledgehammer symbolism (Flicka's wild passion mirrors Katy's), and the film contentedly chews its way through a nosebag script, but for a family movie it admirably resists cutesifying the horses and ably carries a saddlebag of emotion come the climax.
Maria Bello and Country & Western singer Tim McGraw provide solid support as believable parents, but this is Lohman's show, proving she's a natural replacement for the too-much too-soon Lindsay Lohan.
Handsomely mounted and well-acted, with nothing to shock or offend, it's what Sunday afternoons were invented for.