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Our society spends a lot of tweets, Facebook posts, and online reading time fretting about the effect of constant virtual connection on the fabric of our souls, so the tween movie quietly released Nov. 11 comes as a bit of fresh air. Whitney, the titular character of The Greening of Whitney Brown, transforms from urban texting maven into country girl with a horse when every means of communication is taken from her.
Living the high life in Philadelphia, Whitney (Sammi Hanratty) glories in her popularity as she leads her entourage through her exclusive junior high. All that ends when a catastrophic financial crash ruins her family. They find refuge in a rural farmhouse where her father grew up, now inhabited solely by a horse named Bob. The horse seems to think he's a dog and follows Whitney everywhere, but when he steps on her iPhone, he destroys her last link to her old world and becomes her only friend.
The film suffers from some unlikely plot devices, including the inability of the utilities to connect a landline phone and a scene in which the prep-school darling casually and dangerously hops a moving freight train. But Hanratty gives a winning performance with her wide eyes and wider smile. She's backed up by Brooke Shields and Aidan Quinn as her parents and Kris Kristofferson as her crabby grandfather.
Most girls have dreamed about having a horse as a best friend. The film pulls off the relationship well, combining moments of emotion with humor. Every bit as good as Hannah Montana, but without the singing, this PG movie glories in the innocence of junior high life as well as a good message about what it means to be a friend. With a delightful lack of cynicism and wink-wink jokes, this is a fine movie to enjoy with the little girl in your life.