The Greening of Whitney Brown: Film Review

The Greening of Whitney Brown - H 2011

The Greening of Whitney Brown - H 2011

Mild tween fare that would have been more at home on the small screen.

Aidan Quinn, Brooke Shields and Kris Kristofferson star in director Peter Odiome's film centered on a family who relocates to a small town.

Bearing absolutely no relationship to the exploits of actor/comedian A. Whitney Brown, The Greening of Whitney Brown instead refers to a middle school queen bee who gets her wings clipped when her exec dad loses his job and her family is forced to relocate to the sticks.

A first feature by Peter Odiorne from a screenplay by My Dog Skip scripter Gail Gilchriest, the chipper production does well by its laidback cast including Aidan Quinn, Brooke Shields and Kris Kristofferson, but the plot isn’t the only fish-out-of-water aspect to the back-to-basics atmosphere.

The film, both in scope and tone, has a downsized vibe that would have made it a much better fit on an ABC Family than in a movie theater.

As a result, its limited tween girl appeal will likely garner just modest green at the box office.

Young actress Sammi Hanratty is the Whitney Brown in question — a spoiled uptown Philly girl just voted class president of her private school, whose perfect world comes crashing down around her when her dad (Quinn) becomes the latest casualty of the faltering economy.

Forced to abandon their upscale lifestyle, Whitney’s folks retreat to the country, taking up residence in the neglected farmhouse once occupied by her grandparents.

While her resilient mom (Shields) cheerfully reinvents herself, selling homemade wild berry jam, Whitney finds it harder to accept her humbling surroundings, eventually finding a kindred spirit in a quirky horse named Odd Job Bob (played by Gypsy Vanners Mariah and Chase).    

Though there’s nothing particularly wrong with this picture, the filmmakers fail to bring anything fresh or substantial to an oft-told story.

Gilchriest’s script is content to just skim the surface where conflict and characterization are concerned, while director Odiorne relies heavily on a tween sitcom style that feels as out of place here as Whitney’s big city fashion sense.

It’s not surprising Hanratty had a recurring role on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, given her way with a quip, with Quinn and Shields following her perky lead, while Kristofferson is a welcome, slightly weightier, presence in the role of Whitney’s grumpy grandpa.

The obligatory airy, rural backdrop, provided by Newborn, Georgia, is sunnily captured by cinematographer James L. Carter.

Opens: Friday, Nov. 11 (Arc Entertainment)
Production company: Perfect Weekend
Cast: Aidan Quinn, Brooke Shields, Kris Kristofferson, Sammi Hanratty
Director: Peter Odiorne
Screenwriter: Gail Gilchriest
Executive producers: Ed Fitts, Suzanne Wolfe Rathbone
Producers: Justin Moore-Lewy, Charlie Mason
Director of photography: James L. Carter
Production designer: Caroline Hanania
Music: Randy Edelman
Editor: Martin Hunter
Rating: PG, 87 minutes