A couple of live-action short films based on American Girl dolls. Not sure if there will be more of these, but I rather hope so. Anyway, I wasn't quite sure if I should put this under "web reviews" or "short films," since they are short films, but they did originate online. But I guess I'll go with "short films."
Note: there was later a series of American Girl specials on Amazon.
tek's rating: ¾
Maryellen and the Brightest Star (16:11)
AmericanGirl.com; IMDb; TV Tropes; Wikia; YouTube
This was released on November 5, 2015, but I didn't see it until June 2016. It was written and directed by Maya Rudolph (but not that Maya Rudolph). The story is about Maryellen Larkin, the first new American Girl character to be introduced after the "Historical Characters" line was rebranded as "BeForever."
It's set in October 1954. While Maryellen's older sister Carolyn is planning a "Wizard of Oz"-themed group Halloween costume (she wants Maryellen to be the Tin Man), Maryellen herself is stargazing. She spots a bright red star in the night sky, and wants to find out what it is. Later, at school, her teacher announces an essay contest about space, the winner of which will get to interview a rocket scientist who will be visiting the school. And the interview will be broadcast on the news. Maryellen wants to be the first woman in space. (Of course, there's a misogynistic boy named Wayne, who thinks "girls and space don't mix.") In her excitement, Maryellen creates a comic book about "Astro Girl," but it's disqualified from the contest, because it's not technically an essay. However, that's not enough to make her give up on her dreams. I don't want to reveal how the story ends, but it's pretty decent. I probably would rate the film higher if we got to know any of the characters besides Maryellen better than we do, and if any of the acting of the other characters was as charming as hers. (In particular, I'd probably like to know more about her best friend, Davy, although I found his acting the worst of anyone in the film. But at least he provided a nice counterbalance to Wayne's sexism.)
Note: Maryellen would later be featured in the Amazon special Maryellen 1955: Extraordinary Christmas, though all the characters in the special, including Maryellen, are played by different actors than they are in this film.
And the Tiara Goes To... (14:00)
AmericanGirl.com; IMDb; Wikia; YouTube
This was released on November 12, 2015, but I didn't see it until June 2016. I guess this is set in 1974. There's a girl named Julie Albright, who is good at basketball. Her mother finds a rumpled paper in her backpack about a beauty pageant her elementary school is having. Julie isn't interested, but her sister convinces her to enter by showing her an article about Miss America using scholarship money from her pageant to go to law school. So... at first Julie plans on dribbling a basketball for the talent portion of the pageant. Her friend Ivy tries to convince her to change her talent to singing, but in the end, Julie goes with her original choice. But probably the best part of the pageant is the interview segment, in which the host asks each girl what they want to be when they grow up. I definitely think Julie had the best answer. But I don't want to say any more about the plot, or how the pageant turns out. (I do feel the need to say I have mixed feelings about beauty pageants in general, and I feel that the idea of such pageants for elementary school kids could be particularly problematic. But... it was the 70s.) Anyway... the film was okay. I mean, it had some good elements. The whole idea of being true to yourself, and that a person doesn't have to be just one thing or another, and I guess feminism can come in various forms. And... I dunno what else to say.
Note: Julie and Ivy would later both appear in the Amazon special Ivy & Julie 1976: A Happy Balance. They're played by different actresses than in this film, and Ivy is the main character instead of Julie.