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Hug a Hobo

Just in time for the Fourth of July comes this most American of kids' films


Sometimes, when I go to see a film made by Hollywood liberals like Clint Eastwood or Britney Spears, I worry that I'll be subjected to visual images of non-Americans. With Kit Kittredge: An American Girl, the title itself ensures that this will not be so.

Thus did I happily attend a preview screening for this patriotic cinematic offering, whereat I discovered that it was set in the glorious past of the United States, during the only depression that could truly be called "great." I speak, of course, of The Great Depression, a time that finds our heroine, Kit Kittredge (Abigail Breslin) in Cincinnati, in a state that is literally the heart of America.

In the film's edifying story, young Ms. Kittredge wishes nothing more than to become a girl reporter, and to that end attempts to place stories in the local newspaper. However, the paper's gruff editor (Wallace Shawn) refuses to publish Kit's compositions due to Kit's having attained only 10 years of age and thus not yet having acquired reporterly knowledge of the ways of the world. But all of that changes when her father (Chris O'Donnell) loses his job, causing him to depart to the evil city of New York in search of employment.

In order to make ends meet, Kit's mom (Julia Ormond, who was born in England, which is not America, but is, I guess, not too terrible of a non-American place to be from) begins taking in boarders, exposing young Kit to many and various ways of life, including that of a voluptuous dance instructor (Jane Krakowski), a prestidigitator (Stanley Tucci, who, though of Italian descent, is an OK sort), a librarian (Glenne Headly, who speaks French, but only for professional reasons) and several hobos.

It is the hobos who form the spiritual center of this film. It seems that at that time in the great American past, the country thought itself bedeviled by hobodom, and many and various tales were told of the villainy committed by said hobos. For example, hobos were thought to cause dropsy, and to be involved in skullduggery and acts of impropriety. Such rumors caused great hardship to the hobos whom Ms. Kittredge encounters, and they must hide themselves away from the eyes of the citizenry. But Ms. Kittredge discovers that, contrary to popular opinion, the hobos live in an ethical state, sharing their meager wealth communally in a manner reminiscent of the teachings of the great American Eugene V. Debs.

Nonetheless, the local community finds them egregious, and when a series of crimes occur, the constabulary acts against some of the amusing tramps. It is here that young Ms. Kittredge must spring to action, investigating, in the manner of a journalist, the true source of these crimes, in order to absolve, if honestly possible, her hobo friends of the charges pending against them.

Let me say to parents and other concerned persons: The film is, in the end, tremendously pro-hobo. One of the most daringly pro-hobo films of all time, in fact. Now, while the activities of Ms. Kittredge and her child-age gang of compatriots may be less amusing to certain adults, you can rest assured on two points: (1) Kit Kittredge: An American Girl is morally decent fare, such that, were you to doze off momentarily during the film's expository sequences, you would have no fear that your daughters or effeminate sons would hear words or see images that might be injurious to their wholesomeness. (2) This is a film that will be greatly enjoyed by children and hobos. I would recommend bringing as many children and hobos as you can to the theater. You might even drop the children and hobos off while you take the time to enjoy a pedicure or cocktails. Based on what I've seen in this film, and I have no reason to doubt its accuracy or veracity, hobos are a trustworthy lot, and good with children, whom they do not kidnap nor force into labor.

As for the film's quality, as noted, it is not, perhaps, aimed at pleasing those of us who have reached adulthood, unless it is that we have done so while riding the rails, carrying a bindle-stick and whistling folksy ballads. Nonetheless, I firmly believe that this cinematic presentation could be found both educational in teaching about our American past and entertaining in presenting a tale of investigation, altercation and the hobo nation. So your youngsters, who are, in the words of that great American Nancy "Anne Francis Robbins" Reagan, the future, will be well-served by this moving picture, and you, their guardians, will also be well-served, in that your wishes and desires are that they receive the best of instruction and amusement, and that they do so in a way that promotes friendly feelings toward the world's hobos.

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