Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on March 16th, 2011
The American Girl series appears to have started as a collection of dolls. The collection featured various girls from a wide range of historical periods. The dolls came with rather unique histories that provided both a chance to bring the doll to life in the imagination of the child and also teach a little of what life might have been like for girls that lived in these different eras. Of course, the collection had to have accessories, and before long an entire industry was born. The dolls led to a series of books that fleshed out the adventures these characters might have had in their time periods. The books managed to sneak in some wholesome values along with the romantic adventures. The books became quite popular with young girls, and so it was inevitable that this would all lead to films.
The films would come in a series of made-for-television movies on the CW. Each movie centered around a different girl. All were ten years old and lived in a particular time of American history. The second of these movies was Felicity.
Felicity (Woodley) lives in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1775. The colonies are beginning to be stirred with thoughts of revolution. Most towns find their loyalties divided between the patriots, who favored rebellion and the loyalists, who maintained their loyalty to the English king. Like the Civil War of a century later, even families would find themselves torn by differing allegiances. The same can be said for Felicity’s family, the Merrimans. Her father (Schneider) owns the local general store. He and his apprentice Ben (Zegers) are patriots. Ben has so much zeal for the fight that he wishes to be released from his obligations to the store to fight in the cause. Felicity’s grandfather (Gardner) is an avowed loyalist. While the political storm continues to boil, Felicity has turned her attention to a much more local and personal cause.
When she meets the copper-toned horse, she names her Penny, naturally. The only trouble is that Penny belongs to the abusive Jiggy Nye (Kovacs). The man had lost his wife and taken to the bottle. The result is the expert horseman has become cruel and mean to the horse, which breaks Felicity’s heart. She sneaks away nights to feed and comfort the animal, determined to rescue her from the tyrant owner. Meanwhile her family has decided it is time to be schooled in the ways of a gentlewoman. At school she meets her new best friend Elizabeth Cole (Henney) and her rather snobbish older sister Annabelle (Holland-Rose) whom the girls call “Bananabelle”. The friendship is strained by the talk of revolution. The Coles are loyalists. Felicity tries to keep her friendship alive even as her own views begin to side with the patriots.
Of course, there are plenty of lessons to be found here. After all, that’s really the point of the piece. The value of friendship even amid controversy is fully explored with Felicity and Elizabeth. Jiggy Nye learns to find his compassion again when Felicity returns his cruelty with an act of kindness during his need. So there is absolutely a theme of redemption here. These are all elements of the franchise in general and are crucial points to this story. Girls will also be able to relate to Felicity in several ways. It seems all young girls love horses. I’ve discovered that adult girls love them still. So the girls can root for Felicity’s attempt to save and befriend the horse. It’s also a nice lesson for them to appreciate the standing of girls today as opposed to the much different roles they played in 1775. Again, it’s all part of the formula.
So, does the film entertain? To answer that question you really have to be in touch with the target audience. I’m not saying I’m really all that in tune with what 10-year-old girls enjoy, but I’m well aware of the trends. It would be easy for me to be dismissive. It wasn’t the kind of film I would want to watch again. But I’m not who it was created for. In that light I’d have to say the cast does a pretty good job of bringing the period to life. Of course, Shailene Woodley was nearly 15 when this was made, so I really couldn’t buy her as a 10-year-old. Everything else seems authentic enough for the most part, and the lessons are certainly valid. As made-for-television films go, you could do much worse. It’s harmless enough for the males and adults, and if you happen to have a spare ten-year-old girl lying around anywhere, it’s likely going to bring a smile or two… absolutely worth the price of the DVD.
Felicity is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. This is really standard made-for-television stuff. The image is clean but does suffer a small bit from compression issues. Black levels suffer the most here, but there aren’t enough dark scenes to cause too much concern. The colors are a bit washed at times, and the image presentation looks more like a video production at times. The horse actually comes through the most accurate and sharp in the image. I guess that will make the young girls happy.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track is quite simple. The presentation serves the dialog and a bit of nice Celtic music. You’ll hear everything just fine.
Women In Williamsburg: (12:08) Young girls are given a tour of some of the exhibits in the historic city. They get to interact with craftswomen, who represent the women of that time.
On Set With Felicity: (11:07) The cast and crew welcome you to the set and locations of the film. The focus is on transforming these modern girls into 1775 belles. There’s a look at hair, costume and etiquette training for the young girls.
Felicity’s Tour Of Williamsburg: (8:49) Shailene Woodley and Katie Henney romp about in colonial Williamsburg.
All About Felicity – An American Girl: (3:21): This short piece looks at the book and covers the important story points with the book’s illustrations and narration.
This also appears to be a Christmas tale. The story concludes on the holiday and ends with a very Dickens scene for Christmas meal, along with the moral coda: “It did not matter where our journey led us. We’d always have in our hearts the comforts of that evening, the love of our families, and the everlasting nature of true friendship.”