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Moondance Alexander (DVD)
Stars: Kay Panabaker, Don Johnson, Lori Loughlin, Sasha Cohen, James Best, Whitney Sloan, Joe Norman Shaw and Aeden Towney
Director: Michael Damian
Scriptwriters: Michael Damian and Janeen Damian
Composer: Mark Thomas
Cinematography: Julien Eudes
FoxFaith/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Running Length: 95 minutes
The latest release for FoxFaith, the inspiration and family-oriented film arm of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is “Moondance Alexander.” No, the film isn’t about dancing, it’s about a young girl training a horse. Newcomer Kay Panabaker plays Moondance, whose mother (Lori Loughlin) likes tofu and thinks everyone else should, also. Mom and daughter are trying to make a go of it, since Dad passed away (warning: have hankie handy). It’s always good to see Don Johnson (“Nash Bridges”) on screen and in this film, he is a crusty horse trainer.
The film opens with young (about age twelve and seems older) Moondance visiting her father’s grave. She talks to him and is lonely because the kids at school think she is strange (no friends), a loner (no friends) and dresses with no taste (no money). Mom is a private art instructor and one of her adult students (Joe Norman Shaw) is smitten with her, while his son Josh (Aeden Towney) likes Moondance. One day, while riding her bike, Moondance comes upon a pinto horse that she promptly names Checkers. From that time on, the two are inseparable and we discover that Checkers (formerly named Tinkerbell) keeps escaping from Don's stable because he can jump. Soon, Moondance is working at the stable in exchange for riding lessons. When Moondance spies a flyer for a horse show, you know what direction the film will take. Of course, she and Checkers train hard, she manages to get the proper riding attire, two bratty girls, Fiona (Sasha Cohen) and Megan (Whitney Sloan) toss sarcastic barbs her way, but in the world of FoxFaith, everyone eventually learns something.
Moondance Alexander is a well done film with a lush soundtrack (Mark Thomas) and beautiful cinematography (Julien Eudes.) Don Johnson is appropriately reticent at the thought of teaching a girl to jump riding a pinto, Mom alternates between watching Moondance and getting acquainted with a new beau. Checkers (played by three horses) jumps well, always looks properly groomed and manages a bit of horse-humor. Moondance doesn’t let anything get her down, and that highly-charged, positive attitude reminds me of watching Miley Cyrus in her “Hannah Montana” series. The story moves along well and with a G rating, there isn’t much to comment on, except it shows an adult drinking alcohol when sad. A word of caution, horse jumping is a dangerous sport and it is shown with some humor here. People fall and get up right away. That doesn't always happen.
Sasha Cohen, who won a silver medal at the Winter Olympics, turns out to be a rather good actress. I don’t know if she did her own riding or not, but her scenes on a horse (as with the other riders) looked natural. Director Damian knows when to take a breather from the actors and just let the camera wander over hills and sunsets. However, when it comes down to it, the horse steals the film.
Copyright 2008 Marie Asner
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