In a film that's a cross between Little Orphan Annie and Nancy Drew, and based on the "American Girl" series, young Abigail Breslin stars as Kit Kittredge, a girl trying to cope with a world in the throes of the Great Depression. Kit dreams of becoming a newspaper reporter, but being only 9 years old, her ambitions don't get a lot of respect from the adults. Many of her friends are being forced out of their homes as the Depression strikes all around her. Her fears come home to roost when her father, Jack (Chris O'Donnell), is forced to close his Cincinatti car dealership and travel to Chicago to try to find work. Meanwhile, Kit and her mother (Julia Ormond) are forced to take in borders to make ends meet. The borders are a colorful lot, most notably Jefferson Jasper Berk (Stanley Tucci) - a travelling magician, and Miss Lucinda Bond (Joan Cusack) a friendly, but slightly odd woman who operates a mobile library in a truck that she can barely drive.
But storm clouds surround the Kittridge home when the strongbox that holds the Kittridge's mortgage money (as well as the valuables of several of the borders) is stolen. Suspicion immediately falls on two orphan children, a young teen and a smaller boy, who have been doing odd jobs for the Kittridges. Classed as "hoboes" by the borders amid a string of thefts thought to have been committed by other hoboes, they have no chance of vindicating themselves unless they discover the real thieves. Fortunately, Kit and her friends are on the case.
It's a feel-good movie of a kind we don't see very often these days. Abigail Breslin is as cute as a button, but portrays Kit with a sincerity that makes the movie sing. The cast of stars includes some of the finest (largely unsung) character actors in Hollywood today. Joan Cusack is amazingly versatile. Stanley Tucci plays his role to the hilt. Wallace Shawn is superb as the crusty newspaper editor. And Colin Mochrie plays the world-weary leader of the hobo jungle's population with dignity and grace. But it's the kids who make this movie worth seeing.
Rainbo Electronic Reviews published this review in our October, 2008 issue.
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