Usually when a movie springs from a line of toys, it's bone-chilling news for the parents who'll be dragged along for an afternoon of brain death -- "Bratz," anyone? "Kit Kittredge: An American Girl," however, while sprouting from high-rent dolls and a popular book series under the American Girl banner, doesn't feel like a mere marketing ploy. It appeals to kids while evoking genuine emotion without excessive sentimentality.
The series seeks to personalize history by telling inspirational stories set in specific historical contexts with young heroines whom today's girls might find relatable. With some settings, such as the Great Depression for Kit Kittredge, the proceedings can get pretty serious. But the movie admirably does not talk down to its intended audience, nor does it pretend that everything will be all right for these ordinary families losing jobs and homes.
Kit (Abigail Breslin) is a 10-year-old girl in 1934 Cincinnati with dreams of becoming a journalist. When the hard times sweeping the nation reach her doorstep, she must adjust to some harsh new realities as her family and neighbors suddenly find themselves struggling to get by. With her house teetering on the edge of foreclosure, the budding investigative reporter can save it only by solving a "hobo crime wave" with the help of her friends.