Poorly plotted children's adaptation
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Kit Kittredge is a 10 year old aspiring journalist who lives in an upper middle-class suburb of Cincinnati in 1934. Through a family connection, she boldly calls upon the publisher of a major Cincinnati newspaper and asks him to publish an article she's written. Somehow I was thinking that it might have been more interesting if the plot had gone in a different direction from the beginning. Instead of being turned down and not getting her article published until the movie is just about over (and that's the way the plot actually plays out), it might have been more interesting if somehow Kit enlists an adult to get herself published and then her articles become a sensation. Kit becomes a young "Cyrano" with her adult friend (perhaps the 19 year old gopher who Kit was put in contact with by her brother at the beginning of the film) attempts to keep the ruse going, with the publisher and the co-workers at the newspaper in the dark until the film's climax. In my 'alternative' scenario, Kit is found out at the end and 'exposed'; she falls from grace but is redeemed after her final article exposes a team of con men who have been preying upon the good members of the community.
As it turns out, The Kittredge 'First Act' is replete with politically correct, anachronistic ideas. The 'hobos' are nothing more than a stand-in for today's immigrants while the kids whose families are lucky enough to escape the ravages of the Depression, mouth platitudes in school about the hobos not working and getting "government handouts". The rich kids are equated with the conservative, right-wing Republicans of today.
The film's second act begins when Kit's father loses his car dealership (it's interesting that he was still able to have a thriving business as late as 1934!). The father decides to pack his bags and go to Chicago to find new employment. Kit's mother is forced to take in boarders much to Kit's chagrin. Here's where the film really starts dragging. Instead of introducing the antagonist, the plot focuses on introducing us to the collection of oddball characters who inhabit the boarding house. The machinations of these characters are supposed to be amusing but they are merely foolish (there are one too many scenes with Miss Bond, the mobile librarian, crashing her truck in the front yard along with the undeveloped character Miss Dooley who happens to be a dancer of sorts). Then there's Mr. Berk, played by Stanley Tucci, who wows the kids with his magic tricks (another scene that did not have to go on as long as it did).
In addition to the boarders, Kit meets two Hobo children, Will and Countee and decides to investigate the Hobo 'way of life'. Implausibly, Kit's mother allows her to go to a hobo camp to do some 'research' for one of her articles, but wouldn't you know it the hobos are a bunch of wonderful people (despite police reports of many robberies committed by various members of their group). Much too late in the story, the Hobo children are accused of stealing all the boarders' valuables which Kit's mother had placed in what she believed to be a 'safe place'.
By Act III, we've finally discovered that Mr. Berk, the magician, his associate and Miss Bond are a bunch of con artists who have been victimizing poor boarding house denizens all over the city. Since they are a bunch of clumsy fools (buffoons), Kit easily figures out (with the assistance of her young buddies) that they're the one's who framed poor Will; he's soon exonerated and the police now arrest the magician and his buddy after they are exposed by Kit and company.
The denouement is unsatisfying as well. Kit's father returns from Chicago and inexplicably hasn't been able to find one job there. So he reassures Kit that he intends to remain in Cincinnati (despite the fact that there is still no work for him there). Finally, the newspaper publisher arrives and announces that he's published Kit's first article. Instead of becoming an exciting muckraker from the beginning, Kit's new found fame comes a little too late in the storyline.
Unfortunately, little Abigail Breslin is once again used by adults for nefarious purposes. In the insufferable "Little Miss Sunshine", she ends up dancing in a sexually suggestive way at the end of the movie (it's supposed to be "cute" but in reality is a cynical attempt by the films' scenarists to promote an elitist agenda?modern day beatniks trumping beauty pageant snobs). Here little Abigail is also used to promote another modern-day form of elitism: the victims of today's economic woes get their shots in at today's fat cats (no doubt Corporate Executive types who get big bonuses). At least here the 'anything goes' philosophy of 'Little Miss Sunshine' is no longer operative but little Abigail once again comes off as overly pushy and aggressive(and certainly not 'cute').
In the end, 'Kittredge' patronizes both adults and children alike. The film's scenarists were afraid to expose children to a dose of reality. The Depression here is reduced to a Hallmark Greeting Card with villains who are buffoons and heroes who can do no wrong. What it needed to be was another 'Wizard of Oz' with a wicked witch antagonist who is actually scary and evil and protagonists (such as Dorothy and her buddies) who have real-life, honest-to-goodness, human foibles.