Given its provenance, "Kit Kittredge: An American Girl," directed by Patricia Rozema and written by Ann Peacock, is a much better movie than you might expect. The first feature film based on the highly popular American Girl book series – there have already been three made-for-television American Girl movies – plays out like a sweet-souled Nancy Drew mystery.
Abigail Breslin plays Kit, whose derring-do rescues her family's home from foreclosure. The quaintness of the Cincinnati locale is blessedly unsugary. The filmmakers understand that, although this is the Depression as seen through the eyes of a spunky young girl, it is still the Depression.
The cast is remarkably good. Breslin has overdone her welcome for me a bit since her "Little Miss Sunshine" days, but the movie also prominently features Stanley Tucci as a shady magician, Wallace Shawn as the crustiest of crusty newspaper editors, Julia Ormond as Kit's mother, and the always marvelous Joan Cusack as a mobile librarian. (Her mobile facial features are the film's comic high points.) Preteen girls – and not just those who are already American Girl fanatics – should be entranced. And why not? Not many movies for that audience are as respectful as is this one. Grade: A- (Rated G.)