Unimpeachably proto-feminist and racially inclusive, this tween drama, based on several "American Girl" books about a cub reporter in Depression-era Cincinnati, is a trial balloon sent up to test the ether for extending the lucrative doll franchise to theatrical films. It's a bore even for those of us with a weakness for square, character-based, sepia-toned, period-costumed kids' movies that critics love and that go nowhere at the box office. Written by Ann Peacock (The Chronicles of Narnia) and directed by Canadian indie filmmaker Patricia Rozema (Mansfield Park), with producing support from Julia Roberts and Mattel exec Ellen L. Brothers, the movie stars bankable Abigail Breslin as the feisty, can-do aspiring journalist who takes on Depression profiteers while helping her salt-of-the-earth mother (Julia Ormond, woefully miscast) open their home to the unwashed of America. Slow, deliberate, and pretty as a picture in butterscotch lighting and period dress, Kit Kittredge spins its wheels for close to an hour, waiting for something villainous to show up. When it does, the movie's pulse quickens ever so slightly, but not enough to get a serious plot afloat. Instead, widespread worthiness ensues: An American community is born; Kit gets a byline; Mom invites the poor and needy to stay for Thanksgiving; and poof goes penury, taking racism and class inequality with it. American girls deserve better.
Breslin will go on to better things.
Opens at Metro and other theaters, Wed., July 2. Rated G. 100 minutes.