Bottom line:: An American Girl: McKenna Shoots for the Stars follows the story of fourth-grader McKenna, a young gymnast who is struggling to balance her sport with all of the other things in her life. Characters in the movie make a few mistakes, but in the end, the movie delivers a strong positive message of friendship, integrity and balance.MPAA Rating: NR
Guide Age Recommendation: 6+
Runtime: 94 minutes
An American Girl: McKenna Shoots for the Stars - Overview
McKenna Brooks has one passion in her life: gymnastics. Along with her best friend Toulane, she hopes to make it onto the regional competitive team. The problem is, McKenna's passion is getting in the way of her schoolwork. McKenna has been struggling in school, and her teacher has recommended getting a tutor. To make things worse, Mckenna falls during her beam routine, resulting in an injury that keeps her from practicing gymnastics for weeks.
Settling into her new routine of tutoring sessions and sitting on the sidelines proves difficult for McKenna, and she even gets in a fight with Toulane. Things seem to be falling apart around her. If McKenna can't figure out how to share her burdens and restore balance to her life, she will never be her best on the beam, or anywhere else.
An American Girl: McKenna Shoots for the Stars - Guide Review for Parents
Based on the story behind the 2012 American Girl doll of the year, McKenna Shoots for the Stars delivers a high quality film with a strong positive message for kids. While it seems that a story based on a doll might not boast the strongest of plot lines, American Girl books and movies are carefully targeted toward young girls and highly focused on the positive characteristics and passions of each of the different characters, providing a foundation for a decent story that young girls will find relatable and entertaining.
In McKenna Shoots for the Stars, Jade Pettyjohn gives a delightful performance as McKenna, a determined young gymnast who has big dreams and iron resolution. When the odds begin to stack against her, McKenna gets a little desperate and makes some unfortunate choices, such as cheating on a quiz and lying to her best friend. But thanks to her strong family and a teacher, tutor and coach who really care about her, McKenna realizes that her life would be much better with a little perspective.
The movie contains a few instances of bad behavior, such as the cheating, jealousy between friends, and the use of a few mild rude words or phrases such as, "I kicked your butt" (said in friendly banter). But, the characters each learn through their experiences together, and McKenna's tutor Josie models effective problem-solving between friends, while McKenna's character arc unfolds as gracefully as her most perfect beam routine.
An American Girl: McKenna Shoots for the Stars - Themes to Talk About
- While the movie does convey a great message, the subject of McKenna's cheating in school does not get quite the resolution it deserves. Talk with your kids about why kids choose to cheat and what consequences that choice has, whether they are caught or not. Help kids understand the importance of doing schoolwork with honor and integrity.
- In the movie, Toulane has a lot of jealous and mean-spirited feelings toward other girls. Talk about where these feelings come from and how to deal with them.
- The main theme of the movie deals with having balance and not being embarrassed to accept help. Discuss why balance is important, and talk to kids about what their priorities are and how to make sure they stay in perspective.