'Flicka: Country Pride' is the third entry in the epic 'Flicka' trilogy. I must admit that I have not seen any of the previous films in the series, so I have no idea how this one stacks up. I also don't know how closely it connects to those earlier Flicka efforts (if at all). Considering my rather tepid response to the movie, this has left me wondering if I'm simply missing something. Perhaps the key to the film's genius lies in details I'm completely unaware of. Perhaps when placed within the larger context of the sprawling 'Flicka' mythology, the third film's pedestrian direction, uneven acting, and recycled script suddenly take on a new life. Or, you know, perhaps not. Either way, despite those criticisms, the movie does have a certain positive energy that saves it from being a total disaster. Or maybe it's just the fact that I recently saw 'War Horse,' and after watching the hell that Thoroughbred goes through, it's simply nice to see a movie where all a horse has to do is gallop around and look pretty.
Kelly (Kacey Rohl) is a teenager who spends most of her free time working in her mother's (Lisa Hartman) stable. When the new stable manager, Toby (Clint Black), arrives in town with a horse named Flicka, Kelly instantly takes a liking to the Mustang. After a falling out with the young equestrians who use the facility for training and boarding, Kelly decides to put together her own team to win an upcoming competition. With pride, friendships, and the stable itself on the line, Flicka and Kelly band together to save the day.
This is typical DTV family fluff through and through. Anyone who has ever seen an ABC Family made for TV film will know exactly what to expect. We get some drama between Kelly and her ex-best friend, Siobhan (Stephanie Meyers), as they both vie for the same dashing young gentlemen, Briggs McBride (I now know exactly what to name my first born son). We get a subplot chronicling a potential romance between Kelly's mom, Lindy, and Toby (the actors are actually married in real life). We get to watch Kelly and her rag-tag team of inexperienced riders train hard for regionals (you know, like 'Glee,' but with horses). In the end, we even get some good old fashioned horse riding, as a single competition decides the fate of our characters' futures.
It's all extremely predictable, thin, hokey, and underdeveloped. The emotional drama lacks any kind of subtlety, and the script is as by-the-numbers as they come. Direction is also pedestrian and the whole thing feels amateur. Of course, given the intended audience of the film -- young girls and their families -- I suppose the execution is decent. After all, the movie is positive, uplifting, and easy to digest. Still, even though the film's core demographic isn't as discerning as a jaded critic like myself, I can't help but feel that they deserve a little higher quality than this.
The acting is uneven, but the performers do a decent enough job with the mediocre material. Kacey Rohl is the strongest part of the film and she lends Kelly a convincing air of determination. Clint Black has a certain charm about him, but his acting is stiff and awkward. The rest of the young cast are also predominantly one-note, but in their defense, their characters are all one-note to begin with, so there isn't much they could do.
For a film with a horse's name featured so prominently in its title, I actually expected to see a lot more of Flicka. Sure, there are some majestic, slow motion shots of the animal galloping around, and we do get a solid amount of horse riding action in the climax, but the movie could have used more on screen bonding between Flicka and Kelly. Instead, the filmmakers choose to spend most of the running time focused on hackneyed drama. As it stands, I was sort of left wondering what was so special about the horse, and never really bought the emotional connection between the animal and girl that's usually so important to movies like this.
'Flicka: Country Pride' is exactly what one might expect from a DTV sequel to a DTV sequel to a family film. Uplifting but amateur in execution, the movie fails to leave any kind of lasting impression. This is essentially the same family film the industry has been filling airwaves with for decades now, and while it is harmless, there are so many more worthwhile efforts for children out there. Parents looking for a good film to watch with their kids that they can enjoy as well, should definitely look elsewhere. Parents looking for something wholly inoffensive to slap in front of their kids while they watch 'Die Hard' in another room, might be interested, but honestly, unless they really love horses, they deserve better. Parents who are already really big fans of the previous 'Flicka' films themselves, should probably pick this up without hesitation… and also get out more. For most, this is easily skippable.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
20th Century Fox bring 'Flicka: Country Pride' to Blu-ray on a region A BD-25 disc that comes packaged in a keepcase. After some skippable trailers, the disc transitions to a standard menu. For the time being, the title is a Walmart/Sam's Club exclusive.
The movie is provided with a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Decent but irregular, the transfer fluctuates between a few impressive moments and longer, mediocre stretches.
The digital source is mostly pristine, though there is some negligible noise and some slight banding in a few shots (mostly evident on the sky behind characters). Detail is inconsistent and the movie has a mostly soft appearance. With that said, there are a few impressive moments, mostly involving the horse riding sequences. A shot near the end that features a slow motion image of a horse galloping through water, causing tiny drops to sprinkle through the air, is particularly striking. Unfortunately, colors are oddly uneven. Many scenes have a slightly faded look to them with a desaturated palette, while others (particularly near the end) are quite vibrant and rich. Contrast is frequently a little low, leading to an occasionally dim and predominantly flat image. Black levels are solid throughout.
When the transfer looks good, it's actually pretty nice. Unfortunately, too much of the video is dull and flat, leading to a serviceable but easily disposable presentation.
The audio is presented in an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track along with optional English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles. Though there are few splashes of life, this is a mostly basic mix that simply gets the job done and nothing more.
Speech remains clean and crisp throughout. Some sparse directional effects do hit the front soundstage with occasional pans to the left and right when appropriate. The sound of horses galloping carries a nice, deep thud that brings a few welcome bursts of low frequency activity to the track. The score itself is actually surprisingly well done, and the stirring music soars and swells with decent range. Surround activity is almost nonexistent, however, with only some faint music bleeds and soft ambiance. This makes the overall soundstage feel tiny and limited.
With no real semblance of immersion, this track is pretty mediocre. Still, it's free of distortion or any other anomalies, and serves the film well enough.
20th Century Fox has put together a pretty mediocre set of supplements including some brief featurettes and a music video. All of the special features are presented in 1080p with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound and no subtitles.
'Flicka: Country Pride' is a harmless but fairly disposable DTV family film. The scripting and direction are basic and pedestrian, and while the intended demographic may find some entertainment value, there are much better titles out there. The video quality is uneven but serviceable, and the audio is unimpressive. Supplements are brief and hold little value. The film isn't completely without merit, but most families will likely want to skip it.