If I were, say, an eight-year-old girl, 'American Girl: McKenna Shoots for the Stars' could very possibly be my own 'Citizen Kane.' However, since I'm nowhere close to being in the demographic for a movie like this I must concede to being bored beyond belief.
The 'American Girl' line of movies is based off of books and dolls of the same name. Yeah, I know you're getting just giddy realizing that they made movies from a doll series. Okay, maybe you're bored to death with the idea, but it's quite possible that your pre-teen daughter is jumping for joy and asking you to buy this Walmart exclusive movie as fast as you possibly can.
McKenna (Jade Pettyjohn) is like so totally overwhelmed with her life. She's got a future of gymnastics to think about. She's just got to make the regional competitive gymnastics team so she can have a chance at going to the Olympics years from now. Spending so much time with gymnastics is eating into her school life though. Fourth grade is hard, and for McKenna reading comprehension is suffering because of all the time she spends doing back handsprings. Then as fate would have it, McKenna breaks her ankle during a balance beam dismount. Her parents secretly rejoice, since now McKenna can focus on all that important fourth grader work that she's been putting off.
As you may have guessed, yes, 'McKenna Shoots for the Stars' has approximately more screen time devoted to montages than it does to normal filming of conversations and stuff. There are montages of gymnastics, studying, friend-making, horseback riding, more gymnastics this time rhythmic, sulking, and test-taking. No really, there's that many (and probably more). Most of the time you feel like you're watching a music video rather than a movie. The generic pop music floods the soundtrack and the montages take over.
McKenna is not only having problems with school versus gymnastics, but she's also having problems making new friends and keeping the ones she has. She becomes friends with her wheelchair-bound reading tutor just as her long-time gymnastics friend finds out and defriends her faster than a single floor routine tumbling pass. "It's like so totally not cool that you have a new wheelchair friend that you didn't tell me about."
Look, if you have pre-teen girls then this is a movie for them and only them. The good thing about 'McKenna' is that it never tries to be anything more than what it is, which is a movie that is supposed to make little girls feel good about themselves. Does it achieve its goal? I'm not so sure. It does go about it in the cheesiest way possible, with McKenna and her friends giggling after every line, but I'm sure that little girls won't mind. It's happy-go-lucky enough and if you've suffered through any sort of mundane ABC Family made-for-TV movie then you'll be able to make it through this one (probably only falling asleep once or twice).
This isn't a movie for parents, but you can be assured that even if you leave your daughter alone with McKenna and her shenanigans that there isn't anything in here that they shouldn't see. It's as wholesome as a pre-teen-centric movie should be, even sporting exclamations like "Gosh!" So, if you're pressured into buying it for your little girl, it's okay. Just don't be in the room when it starts rolling.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'McKenna Shoots for the Stars' is a Walmart Exclusive title. It's distributed by Universal and comes in a Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack which also contains an UltraViolet Digital Copy so you can take McKenna on the road. The Blu-ray is a 50GB disc.
'McKenna' keeps a consistent, albeit soft, high-def look throughout the movie. As the movie feels much like a made-for-TV movie, the look of it follows suit. While much of the picture is defined well, the entire image lacks depth and detail that better looking presentations have.
Mid- and long-range shots feature flat, dimensionless photography. Close-ups are much better with detail, but still don't come close to replicating better presentations out there. Much of the gymnastic footage is murky and speckled with noise and untamed contrast. There is a weird double-vision thing that happens toward the middle of the movie where McKenna's friend's shirt is reflected in the air right above her. It's strange and I couldn't figure out a good reason as to why it was happening. Haloing and banding are also common occurrences.
Overall, the video presentation isn't bad, but it could've been much better. As of now it resembles just about any other low-budget made-for-TV movie you've ever seen.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track doesn't fare much better. Yes it produces intelligible dialogue, but all the pop songs seem hampered by underwhelming low-end accompaniment. Each montage is joined with a song that sounds like it's being played on a boom box without a sub-woofer, giving each song an overall tinny sound. Since the montage music is almost half of the movie I'd say that disappointing musical presentation really ends up bringing this audio presentation down a notch or two. Like I said before though, the dialogue is clean and clear, which is what this movie is made up of. There's little in the way of sound effects or panning scenes. There is one scene with a roaring waterfall that gives a good sense of what the pop songs should've sounded like with a bit of hefty LFE. Rear channels also capture a good amount of audience applause and busy gymnastic room activities. It's nothing to shout about, but I guess it could've been worse.
There are no special features included.
This is a movie for little girls and it knows it. At least it knows the demographic it's targeting and nails it. I actually wish I could forgo scoring the movie with stars in the Movie Itself portion simply because there is no way this movie was meant to be critiqued by me in the first place. 'McKenna' knows its audience, and even if it is one of the cheesiest movies out there, it still achieves what it set out to do. Although it did so with middling audio and video. Either way, this is for little girls only.