There’s a fun film opening in select theaters this weekend that took me immediately back to my tween days and reminded me of fun Saturday afternoons at the movies with my siblings or girlfriends. The Greening of Whitney Brown is a tale of redemption, simply told in a fun fashion, with a positive moral that makes it a great choice for kids growing up in an age where fourth graders pack iPhones and we’re all too busy to sit down for family meals together.
This family friend film, rated PG for “brief, mild language” tells the story of 8th grader Whitney Brown (cutely played by Sammi Hanratty), a spoiled rich kid who seems to have her world by the tail at the story’s outset.
Whitney’s the popular, rich, cute girl — a leader of her pack and a trendsetter amidst the “it” kids at her privileged private school. We witness enough of her power shopping and meanness to the “scholarship student” to know that she’s on the wrong track. A peek into Whitney’s home life gives evidence to a dad (Aiden Quinn) who’s a power broker and a mom (Brooke Shields) who’s so busy doing good for society that she doesn’t have time for her own kid.
Salvation for Whitney happens when her dad is suddenly fired and her family lands in a rural town living in a farmhouse with very few modern amenities. Suddenly Whitney must learn to survive without money, texting, her cell phone — and friends. The popular girl suddenly finds herself lonely and relearning what’s really important in life.
One of her best teachers turns out to be a spunky horse named “Bob” who in many ways is the star of this film. Along the way, Whitney also meets her “grumpy” grandfather (Kris Kristofferson) who was never much of a dad but who seems to be redeeming himself as a grandparent.
The Greening of Whitney Brown is a fun family film almost completely devoid of objectionable content. I loved Brooke Shields’ portrayal of Joan Brown and as an Aiden Quinn fan, I’m always happy to see his work. If you have elementary school age children and are looking for a fun viewing option for the whole family, you’ll enjoy this movie. I think it also provides a great opportunity to reflect with our children on the true blessings in life: family, friends, nature and God’s blessings. Is there a bit of silliness in this film? Yes, and that adds to the charm — who doesn’t want to see a horse riding in the back of a Mini Cooper convertible?