So apparently my love for my daughter knows no bounds, because not only have I refrained from discouraging her rapt fascination with the offensively priced American Girls dolls, but I willingly sat through Samantha: An American Girl Holiday. Twice. And I’m not sure whether or not it’s just paternal weakness speaking, but, uh…this movie really isn’t that bad.
Originally released in 2004, Samantha kicked off what has become a burgeoning film franchise — Samantha’s fellow American Girls Felicity, Molly, and Kit Kittredge now have their own movies — and even though Warner Bros.’ reasons for reissuing it now (Celebrating 25 Years of American Girl!) are just as flimsy as the reasoning behind that “Deluxe Edition” on the case (a new widescreen transfer replaces the original full-screen video), the movie remains a sweet, surprisingly thoughtful holiday confection with far greater depth than any toy-shilling tie-in has a right to boast.
Like most of her fellow American Girls, Samantha (AnnaSophia Robb) is as plucky as she is adorable, which is a good thing, because she grew up in the early 1900s, when poor kids had to work in sooty factories and handymen were known to drop dead of influenza, leaving their kids to suffer the life of the Dickensian orphan. But because nobody wants to buy a doll with raggedy clothes and tear streaks running down its coal-dusted face, Samantha didn’t have to worry about any of that yucky stuff: although she was an orphan, she got to live on the fabulous estate owned by her grandmother (played here by Mia Farrow, who apparently racked up substantial gambling debts at some point). And when Samantha’s grandmother couldn’t take care of her anymore, she went off to live with her oddly named Uncle Gard (Jordan Bridges) and his new wife Cornelia (Rebecca Mader) on their fabulous estate. Poverty is totally yucky. Continue reading