The Adventures of Ociee Nash Review
By Shawn McKenzie 10/08/2004
This has been a bad year for kiddie movies. I’ve probably said that before this year, but it’s true. Aside from Shrek 2 and Home on the Range, most of the movies this year marketed for kids have been poor. The problem this year is that the movies released in 2004 have been insulting the intelligence of the average kid while boring the parents. The worst movie I have seen so far has been The Adventures of Ociee Nash, which is surprising because two veteran movie stars head it.
Nine-year-old Ociee Nash (Skyler Day) is a tomboy living in Mississippi on a farm with her father George (Keith Carradine) and her two older brothers, Ben (Bill Butler) and Fred (Charles Nuckols IV), along with their Golden Retriever named Woofer. She plays mostly with Ben, who is slightly older than Ociee herself, but after a scare by a gypsy named John Leon (Anthony P. Rodriguez), Papa George decides to have Ociee live with her Aunt Mamie (Mare Winningham) Ashville, N.C. so she can teach her how to be a proper young lady. Ociee’s mother had died years ago, and so George figures that she needs a female role model in her life. Ociee hates this idea, because she misses her dad and her brothers, and she is not thrilled about giving up her tomboy ways, but she goes along with it. George puts her on a train, where she encounters several people along the way. She meets Nellie Bly (Donna Wright), a newspaper columnist who has reported from around the world, and is very opinionated. Next, Ociee meets Orville and Wilbur Wright (Sean Daniels as Orville and Ty Pennington of “Trading Spaces” and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” in his feature film debut as Wilbur), the famous team who invented the airplane. Finally, she meets the President of the United States, William McKinley (Daniel Burnley), for whom Ociee inspires a campaign slogan (“Remember the Maine!”) She finally arrives in Asheville, and Mamie almost immediately tries to get Ociee to wear dresses instead of her former rural garb. Ociee gets into a fight with Elizabeth Murphy (Jasmine Sky), another “proper young lady” neighbor girl, but after Elizabeth accidentally rips Ociee’s dress, the girls start to become fast friends. Their enemy is a rich boy named Harry Vanderbilt (Lucas Till), who leads a bunch of boys down by the creek intent on bullying other kids. Ociee manages to put Harry in his place with her pluck, something that also allows her to save Elizabeth in a house fire next door. In the end, everyone is happy and cheery and loving, making you want to reach for your sick bag. Oh…in a subplot, spinster Mamie starts having feelings for a buggy driver named Mr. Lynch (Tom Key), a childhood friend whom she invites over for Sunday dinner. It only allows Mamie to come out of her cold, hard shell, but otherwise, it isn’t as vital to the main story.
Carradine and Winningham are normally good actors, so why they ended up being so bad in this movie is surprising. In fact, the acting all around is so terrible that it looked like a bad sitcom from the ‘60s. All of the characters talked in stilted, monotone pauses that it was painful to watch. Rodriguez gave the bad acting away early in the film when he tried to do a scary laugh that sounded like a fake Santa Claus laugh (Ha, Ha, Ha! Ho, Ho, Ho!) It just went downhill from there. I know that this is a G-rated movie, but did I hear her say “Gee Willickers” anywhere here? I wouldn’t be surprised.
The Adventures of Ociee Nash was directed by Kristen McGary, produced by her sister Amy McGary, and written together by both sisters. Milam McGraw Propst wrote the award-winning novel, called A Flower Blooms on Charlotte Street, who based it on her grandmother, the “real Ociee Nash.” The movie was made in 2002 and was finally released theatrically this year in limited markets. Unfortunately, if they don’t do a better job with the acting and directing, the McGary sisters may never get another chance again to make a follow-up movie. I understand that this movie is considered “family-friendly,” because there is nothing offensive about it, but the G-rated Finding Nemo did a better job at being “family-friendly,” and it didn’t turn off the parents along the way. You can make a non-offensive drama without insulting either kids or adults. I have to believe that it’s possible!
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