The Greening of Whitney Brown - SideReel Review
The Greening of Whitney Brown follows the most popular girl in school as her father loses his job, and she and her family are forced to relocate to the country. Director Peter Odiorne fails to bring anything fresh or meaningful to an oft-told story of a bratty teen's fall from grace and the new maturity that only a good, honest dose of hard labor can provide. It's not that there's anything particularly wrong with the film, as it possesses its own bubbly, genial point-of-view, and there's something moderately worthwhile about the wisdom Whitney gains after severing ties with the overinflated bubble she was raised in, yet screenwriter Gail Gilchriest's script is content to brush the surface where conflict and characterization are concerned, while Odiorne's pre-teen sitcom style seems as out of place as rich-girl fashionista Whitney in the countryside.
Whitney Brown (Sammi Hanratty) is the most popular girl in her uptown Philadelphia prep school -- class president, perfect grades, all the latest fashion, and a date to the formal with the newly arrived football star -- her life was every girl's dream until the day reality crashed Whitney's party. Her father (Aidan Quinn) loses his job (hello, recession!), and with it, his family's financial security. Forced to relocate with her family to his childhood farmhouse in the country far away from civilization, Whitney Brown suddenly becomes the unluckiest girl on the planet. Isolated and unhappy, Whitney is cut off from everyone and everything, unable to stay connected with her former life. Then, on the farm, she meets a special horse named Odd Job Bob and her life -- as well as his -- changes forever. Along the way Whitney learns a little humility and that sometimes the best things in life can't be bought.
It's hard to take Hanratty, best known for her roles on several Disney Channel tween shows and American Girl films, seriously as the spoiled, mean-girl diva. She's just a little too perky and cute and lacks the depth necessary to convince us of her spoiled, rich-girl persona. Also, the film is set up to emphasize her relationship with the horse, but as the story unfolds, that connection becomes increasingly marginalized; more like an afterthought. Kris Kristofferson plays the estranged grandfather, and he brings a slightly weightier presence as compared to the fluffiness of Aidan Quinn and Brooke Shields as Whitney's parents. The movie certainly speaks to the giddy gaggle of pre-teens girls who are fans of Hanratty, but perhaps the film would be better served on the small screen.