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Movie Review

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl

Reviewed by: Dymphna Meeds

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Kids, Family
Comedy, Drama
1 hr. 41 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
June 20, 2008 (NYC, LA, CHI, ATL, Dallas)
July 2, 2008 (wide)
Copyright, New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Brothers Entertainment Copyright, New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Brothers Entertainment Copyright, New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Brothers Entertainment Copyright, New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Brothers Entertainment Copyright, New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Brothers Entertainment Copyright, New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Brothers Entertainment Copyright, New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Brothers Entertainment Copyright, New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Brothers Entertainment Copyright, New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Brothers Entertainment
Relevant Issues

POVERTY—What does the Bible say about the poor? Answer

Poor in the Bible

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Fear, Anxiety and Worry… What does the Bible say? Answer


What should we thank God for, and how should we praise Him? Answer

THANKSGIVING DAY—Why do Americans celebrate it? Answer

What is the origin of America's annual Thanksgiving Day? Answer

THANKSGIVING—Tips for New and Growing Christians—GO

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Other films in this series
  • “Samantha: An American Girl Holiday” (2004)
  • “Felicity: An American Girl Adventure” (2005)
  • “Molly: An American Girl on the Home Front” (2006)
Featuring: Abigail Breslin
Nim's Island,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Signs,” “Definitely, Maybe

Joan Cusack, Julia Ormond, Max Thieriot, Chris O'Donnell, Stanley Tucci, Jane Krakowski, Wallace Shawn, Glenne Headly, Willow Smith, Zach Mills, Madison Davenport, Austin Macdonald, Darryn Lucio, Dylan Roberts, Douglas Nyback, Martin Doyle, Dylan Smith, Jordan Rackley, Erin Hilgartner, Brieanne Jansen, Joanna Swan, Colette Kendall, Elisabeth Perez
Director: Patricia Rozema
Producer: Ellen L. Brothers, Lisa Roberts Gillan, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, Terry Gould, Julia Roberts, Marisa Yeres
Distributor: New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Brothers Entertainment

“Movie based on the American Girl® series Kit Kittredge.”

The Great Depression was a tough time. For everyone! Children and adults, hobos and car dealers, bankers and dance teachers. Sometimes we forget, with all the luxury around us, what it is like to work hard and how to succeed. One only needs to look at those who survived the 1930s. “Kit Kitterdge: An American Girl” shows us what life was back in the middle of The Great Depression.

Kit (Abigail Breslin), a spunky adolescent who lives in Cincinnati, loves to write stories on her typewriter. Any day now, the Cincinnati Register is going to buy one of her stories! Or so Kit believes. Trouble-free, she plays the days away with her friends Ruthie (Madison Davenport) and Francis (Brieanne Jansen), until that one fateful day.

Suddenly Kit’s world is turned upside-down. First of all, the bank throws Francis’s family out of their house, since they can’t pay the rent. For the first time, Kit has a twinge of fear for what might happen to her family. However, everything seems fine until Mr. Kitterdge (Chris O'Donnell) loses his job and leaves for Chicago in search of work. To earn more money, Mrs. Kitterdge (Julia Ormond) opens up their house to boarders. It turns out to be a crazy (and rather dangerous) learning experience for all of them!

From an enjoyment point of view: This movie was very cute, although rather predictable. Some of the acting was marvelous, especially Max Thieriot, Abigail Breslin, Julia Ormond, Chris O'Donnell, Wallace Shawn, and Joan Cusack. The rest was a little shaky. Filming, costumes, location, and music were all perfect! However, if you’re not into sweet, girly movies, this might not be the right movie for you.


The main theme throughout this movie is family. You especially see this with Kit’s mother and father. Numerous times, her father stands by her and comforts her or plays with her. Kit’s mother supports Kit and stands up for her, even when things grow tough. Throughout the whole movie, Mrs. Kitterdge only loses her temper once and very mildly at that. On the other hand, they don’t just pacify Kit with whatever she wants and let her get away with everything. When Kit complains about a classmate, her mother tells her to be kind in return, and that he isn’t all bad. Although Mr. Kitterdge hides things from his family, he also learns how to trust and love them. And Kit’s parents also are wonderful role models for her.

The next example of a loving family is the hobos Will Shepherd (Max Thieriot) and Countee (Willow Smith). Since he was orphaned a few years ago, Countee is always in the loving care of Will. And, better yet, Will thinks of it as a blessing. “Every day I thank the good Lord for this little fellow,” he says, and he certainly treats him like that, too.

Lastly, Stirling Howard (Zach Mills) and his mother (Glenne Headly) exhibit the pain in a broken family. Mr. Howard left for New York to find work and has now deserted their family. From the hurt in both wife and child, you can see the pain in a shattered home.

The second most important theme in the movie is not to judge people or have prejudice. Kit is sure that the hobos are not all bad and that Will certainly isn’t. Although she understand hobos (like everyone else) can do bad things, Kit believes that they deserve the same treatment and respect. As she puts it, “There are good and bad hobos, just like there are good and bad apples!” And the sad thing is the treatment given the hobos is what really happened. Will is afraid to report that he had been attacked, because he is a hobo and knows the police won’t listen. That is not to say that this movie puts down the police or rich people in any way. It just shows us that everyone is a person and should be treated with respect.

Another way Kit and Ruthie learn is through Stirling. At first, they look at how his mom treats him and think he’s a sissy. Later they learn what a wonderful person and friend he really is.

There are also two very major secondary messages. The first is about justice and truth. Kit is resolved to discover who is behind the crimes, instead of just blaming it on the easiest and most susceptible people. Even when everyone else gives up, she remains positive that Will is not a thief and is willing to put herself in danger to help him. This is still very relevant in our day-to-day lives. We must not “say what people want to hear,” as a reporter named Billy (Douglas Nyback) tells Kit; we must fight for the truth and live it out in our lives. Kit knew what Billy said was wrong and so should we!

The second one is generosity. This virtue is found throughout the movie, starting with Mrs. Kitterdge and ultimately ending with the hobos. Kit helps out at a soup kitchen, and another boy who complains about it is reprimanded. We see how the hobos share everything they have with each other, and how the Kitterdges open up their home to others—even those many dislike.

When Kit first begins having to work hard and has to share the house, she complains. However, by the end of the movie, she is cheerful about her work and realizes that others are worse off than her. One of the villains realizes the errors of his/her ways and ends up helping the children. Although they, too, go to jail, we know that they had a sincere change of heart.

Possible Negatives

Violence is very minor in this movie. In fact, the chase scene between Kit, her friends, and the criminals is one of the comic parts of the movie. The most violent part is when a criminal is hit on the head with the back of a shovel, and even that is very tastefully done. A robber trips over a log, Kit climbs out onto a tree limb, the librarian Mrs. Bond (Joan Cusack) crashes into cans and fences with her car, Stirling faints, dancer Miss Dooley (Jane Krakowski) almost kicks Mrs. Kitteredge, and someone’s wallet is stolen. However, these are all very much nonviolent.

The scariest parts in the movie are when Kit searches the robbers’ room, stowsaway in their car, and when she is trying to hide from them. However, even these are not very tense.

Kit does yell sometimes and is sometimes naughty. However, she is usually punished and scolded for it and learns how not to act. Overall, she is a pretty good kid. Ruthie and Stirling disobey the librarian. And Stirling writes a fake letter to his mother from “her husband.”

Several names are called, the worst being moron. However, there is no swearing or “Oh my Go*”s. A reporter mocks his boss. Robin Hood like behavior is thought of as good.

Some people may be concerned about the overprotective mother, and the way she is portrayed. Also, Miss Dooley wants a husband and likes to flirt with men. She also puts a letter down her dress and talks about keeping valuables in her unmentionables. And the magician makes a veiled sexual reference.

Kit and her friends have a secret ritual that they do to join into her club. In it they use “sacred water” and swear not to tell anyone about themselves. Later on, Mr. Kitterdge swears in the same fashion that he will come back home. And the magician levitates a woman. *SPOILER WARNING* We later learn that it was just a trick. *SPOILER END*

Overall, this is a sweet, funny, and at times heart-wrenching movie. Very clean and enjoyable, young girls will love it. However, I don’t think it would keep many boys attention for long!

Violence: Minor / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: None

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—I thought this was a nice, clean, positive movie about a girl living in the depression era who yearns to be a newspaper columnist. There is a little mystery to the plot, as she tries to find out, in the Nancy Drew fashion, who is committing robberies and burglaries throughout the area. Abigail Breslin plays the role perfectly and helps the movie present the mood and flavor of the 1930s. Not all the roles are well-written or well-performed. For example, her father, played with very little imagination by Chris O'Donnell, could have been a much more interesting personality. And her mother, played lamely by Julia Ormond, could also have had more substance. Nevertheless, this is a fine movie for children and also for adults, as I sat through the entire movie with interest. Definitely recommended.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4
Halyna Barannik, age 62
Positive—My husband and I saw this movie last night. I do not have to think twice to recommend this movie to others, and I am looking forward to taking my grandchildren to see “Kit Kittredge: An American Girl.” It is really nice to see that “Hollywood” can create a decent movie for the family.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Susanne, age 56
Positive—I took my almost 6 year old daughter to see this film and I enjoyed it very much! It is definitely a tear jerker-I felt in several scenes however it

moves past them pretty quickly. My daughter enjoyed it very much as well. There is really nothing offensive in this movie which is quite rare these days in my opinion. I would label it a “feel good movie.” I was able to use the movie to speak to my daughter about hard times and those less fortunate and how blessed we are to have the things we do. It is easy to forget these things and this movie was a good reminder. I will certainly purchase this one when it is out on DVD. I would say boys probably will not enjoy this one as much.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—April, age 35
Positive—I took my 7 and 5 yr old daughters to this movie yesterday. It was a great movie with a positive message. After the movie I was able to talk to my girls about treating all people with respect as Jesus would do and that all of us are equal in God's eyes. I would highly recommend this movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Kayla, age 44
Comments from young people
Positive—Ah! Refreshing. My best friend and I have a tradition of watching the “American Girl” movies together and bringing our dolls despite our teen age. …We used to love the dolls when we were little and it's good to see them popping out fun movies for the AG fans! I actually liked it. It was funny, cute and had a good plot. There was a lot about how hobos (since it was set during the Depression) were terrible, lying cheats! But then Kit went to the “Hobo Jungle” and discovered that they are just normal people! It's quite a morally wonderful film! Totally family friendly. Even boys will like it, I guarantee. Something to go see!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Emily, age 13
Positive—I went to see this movie just a couple of days ago. The movie is incredible. There is nothing offensive and it teaches a good lesson about thankfulness. There are some sad parts and some happy parts. I even know some people who got a little teary there at the end!… (not me…) But it's a really funny, and upbeat movie full of wonderful characters. The girl that played Kit was wonderful along with the boy who played Sterling! The cast made it so much better! And the way the movie was made was great too! It's a definite must-see in my opinion. A++++
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Movielover, age 14
Positive—This was a cute movie! My friend and I laughed throught the whole movie. We enjoyed it very much! It is definitely a little girl movie. Well, I'm saying mostly girls will like this movie. It was clean and a really good movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Sarah, age 17 (USA)
Positive—This is a VERY GOOD movie! At first, I was worried that it would be too kiddish, but it was almost a little too deep and depressing to be a little kids’ movie! Very enjoyable, nothing offensive, very charming and smart. And I won't give it away, but the mystery part is especially good, cuz I was so wrong when I guessed who the criminals were! But I should have seen it coming, cuz there were so many clues!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Katie, age 16 (USA)
Movie Critics
…starts slow and lyrical but ends with a heartfelt wallop. The casting is superb…
…it’s pretty good. It has a message, it’s family friendly, it has a powerhouse cast…
—Phil Boatwright, Preview Family Movie and TV Review