Reverse Cinderella tale with a horsey fairy godfather

Kris Kristofferson plays Dusty Brown in the tale of a family that copes with hard times by moving from their mansion to a farm.

By turns pleasant and preposterous, The Greening of Whitney Brown is a reverse Cinderella tale for tweens. It centers on a middle school queen bee (Sammi Hanratty in the title role) whose family is stung by economic hard times.

With echoes of Green Acres, to cite one of the many TV sitcoms the movie borrows from, the Browns trade their upscale mansion in Philadelphia (shot in Georgia) for the family farm of Mr. Brown (Aidan Quinn).

Surprise! There's a horse in the dining room!

I mistook it for a Clydesdale, but it is identified as a Gypsy Vanner. His character's name is Bob (he's played by the frisky Odd Job Bob), an unusually cinegenic horse cast in what can be called the fairy-godfather role.

On the plus side, the movie boasts the presence of Quinn, Brooke Shields as Mrs. Brown, and Kris Kristofferson as a country grumpus whose identity is as unsurprising as plot turns that the audience is way ahead of. On the minus side, the broad acting is strictly from Nickelodeon. Meaning that it purveys the exaggerated performances and relentlessly upbeat attitude of the shows on that cable network.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. But the filmmakers prolong 22 minutes of material over more than 80 minutes and that's not such a good a thing, even if it promotes positive values such as turning the other cheek when it comes to mean girls.

Given the feathery hair on his hooves and crimped mane, Bob is pretty cute - in a My Little Pony way.

Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at

The Greening of Whitney Brown

Directed by Peter Skillman Odiorne. With Natalia Dyer, Lily Rashid, Slade Pearce, Aidan Quinn, Anna Colwell, Keith David, Charlotte Matthews, Brooke Shields, Sammi Hanratty, Kris Kristofferson. Distributed by Cinedigm Entertainment.

Running time: 1 hours, 27 minutes.

Parent's guide: PG (for brief mild language).