tek's rating:

Samantha: An American Girl Holiday, on The WB
AmericanGirl.com (archive); IMDb; Made for TV Movie Wiki; TV Tango; TV Tropes; Warner Bros.; Wikia; Wikipedia
streaming sites: Amazon; Google Play; iTunes; Movies Anywhere; Vudu; YouTube

Caution: spoilers.

This is the first film in the American Girl series. It originally aired on November 23, 2004, and was released on DVD on November 30. I didn't see it until I got it on DVD in 2018, and watched it on Christmas Eve Eve. I thought, based on the title, that it would be a Christmas movie, though I didn't really know anything about the plot. Now that I have watched it, I can say I don't really think of it as a Christmas movie, even though that's when the climax takes place. Still, it was pretty good.

It begins in spring of 1904. Samantha Parkington (AnnaSophia Robb) lives in Mount Bedford, New York, with her grandmother, Mary "Grandmary" Edwards (Mia Farrow), since her parents had died in an accident some time ago. One day, a widower named Mr. O'Malley moves into the home of Samantha's neighbors, along with his three daughters, Nellie, Bridget, and Jenny; all four of them will work there as servants. Samantha soon befriends Nellie, and starts teaching her to read. Meanwhile, Samantha eagerly awaits the return of her beloved uncle Gardner (whom she calls "Uncle Gard"), who lives in New York City and has recently been in Europe. When he finally shows up for a visit, he brings with him a woman named Cornelia (Rebecca Mader), who Samantha and her grandmother had met the previous Christmas. Eventually, Gardner announces that they're engaged (which I found entirely predictable, even though Samantha and Grandmary seemed surprised by the news). It was honestly hard for me to be sure how Mary felt about it; even before Gardner came, I had found it pretty obvious that a lot of the time when she asked Samantha anything, the girl knew full well that she had to answer "Yes, Grandmary" even if the truth would have been "No." And it struck me that Mary herself was the sort of person who lived by the same sort of rules of etiquette that she imposed upon her granddaughter, so whether or not she approved of her son's fiancee, she would say that she did. On the other hand, it was quite easy to see that Samantha was unhappy about the news, despite her saying the right things.

Samantha is determined to dislike Cornelia, no matter how nice Cornelia is to her. Especially when it's revealed that the wedding will be that July, which Gardner had forgotten is when he had promised to take Samantha on a trip. To make it up to her, he decides that Samantha should come to stay with Cornelia and himself in New York for the fall, starting a month after the wedding. Samantha overhears various people saying things that make her erroneously think she isn't really wanted. Nevertheless, she does begin to like Cornelia. While in New York, Samantha exchanges letters with Nellie. But eventually she learns that Nellie's father has died, and she and her sisters were sent to an orphanage in New York. So of course she wants to find them and help them in any way she can. And while she keeps her efforts secret for quite awhile, she eventually gets help from Gardner and Cornelia, who are both quite progressive.

Well, I guess I don't really want to spoil any more of what happens. But it does have quite a happy ending. And... there's a lesson about how terrible things could be for orphans (or really anyone who's poor), at that time, both in orphanages and as workers in factories. And a message about how important it is to help the less fortunate, which is the sort of message that one might hear on any given Christmas, but which I found particularly appropriate in 2018. (So maybe it's a good thing it took me fourteen years to get around to watching the movie, I guess.) Anyway... I'm glad to have finally seen it.

TV movies index
American Girl films:
Samantha * Felicity * Molly * Kit * Chrissa * McKenna * Saige * Isabelle * Grace * Lea
online short films * Amazon specials

Note 1: Over the years, I have had some confusion concerning how to categorize some of these movies, and therefore whether to place my reviews in my site's TV section or movie section. The first three were definitely TV movies, as they aired on TV before being released on home video. The fourth was originally released theatrically, so that was also easy to categorize. But after that, it started to get complicated. I'm pretty sure the fifth movie aired on TV a day before it was released on DVD, but some sources claim it aired the same day the DVD was released. Either way, it was either after that movie or the sixth (I don't remember for sure which) that I decided, from that point on, any American Girl movie that aired on TV within a month after its DVD release, I would categorize as TV movies (despite my usual preference for basing movie categorization on which medium had the earliest release). The sixth through eighth movies all aired on TV less than a month after their DVD releases. The ninth and tenth, as far as I know, have had no TV release at all, at least in America (and if they did, it was definitely more than a month after their DVD releases). However, both those movies were released for digital download less than a month prior to their DVD releases, but... I consider them direct-to-video movies, as I have no category for digitally released movies.

Note 2: In August 2014, the "Historical Characters" line was rebranded as "BeForever." This included some of the American Girl Dolls, but not all of them. And since the rebranding, new dolls have been introduced in this line. Of the Historical Character dolls who already had movies, I believe only Samantha and Kit have been included in the rebranding; I presume Felicity and Molly were retired, though I really don't know much about any of this. (I've done minimal research online.)