A Cowgirl’s Story DVD Review

  • Actors: Bailee Madison, Chloe Lukasiak, Pat Boone, Aidan Alexander, Froy Gutierrez
  • Director: Timothy Armstrong
  • Disc Format: AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French, English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: April 18, 2017
  • Run Time: 98 minutes

        Filmmaker Timothy Armstrong has an odd preoccupation with films about young girls and competitive horseback riding, with A Cowgirl’s Story being his third entry into the genre. Reuniting with the star of his 2012 feature, Cowgirls ‘n Angels, Armstrong piles a typical saccharine story with an extra dose of patriotism and faith-based melodrama, nearly to the point of eliminating horseback riding from the film altogether. While some undiscerning pre-teen girls may find the film mildly diverting, there is hardly a redeeming moment in within A Cowgirl’s Story for any intelligent viewer.

        The star of A Cowgirl’s Story, Bailee Madison, was also the lead in Cowgirls ‘n Angels, but was nowhere to be found in Armstrong’s questionable sequel, Cowgirls ‘n Angels: Dakota’s Summer. Now Madison has returned for A Cowgirl’s Story, which is in no way connected to the Cowgirls ‘n Angels franchise. This time Madison is seventeen-year-old Dusty Rhodes (every element of the film is as obvious as her name), a cowgirl who conveniently moves in with her grandfather as if in anticipation of a second-act plot twist that has both of her parents deployed in Afghanistan.

        Dusty goes through the usual contrivances of being the new kid in her high school, which is made more confusing by the contradictions of the town she is living in. The other kids at school make fun of the fact that Dusty dresses like a cowgirl and act like they are completely unfamiliar with the country lifestyle, despite the town having ranches nearby and numerous stores dedicated to equestrians and cowboys. The high school even has a country western themed Sadie Hawkins dance (despite both primary female characters being asked by the boys), which is in complete contradiction with the way that Dusty is originally treated like an outsider. Armstrong wants it both ways: he makes it so that the country lifestyle necessary for all of his cowgirl films is still prevalent, but also so that it seems odd enough for Dusty to be an outsider.

        This isn’t the only way that Armstrong tries to have it both ways with his bipolar screenplay, which is overtly patriotic in a way that feels like right-wing propaganda while also cramming in an unnecessary Muslim character to be blatantly discriminated against in a way that feels like liberal propaganda. These may just be two views that the filmmaker wants to represent, but they are so unnaturally presented that each inevitably feels manipulative. For example, no adults get involved when the Muslim girl is shouted at and even has her car spray painted with hate speech. The teens even watch war footage on an oddly placed TV set in the lunchroom of their high school. Logic and common sense are completely thrown out for melodrama so unrealistic that it often feels like fantasy.

        Despite being preoccupied with competitive horseback riding, this film has very little footage of the cast actually on a horse. At first it seems as though Dusty’s efforts to form an equestrian drill team is the primary plot of the film, but it quickly shifts to a preoccupation with the drama of the teens who inexplicably decide to join with Dusty. Savannah (Chloe Lukasiak) is a troubled girl whose father was killed in Afghanistan, while another classmate is suffering from the loss of a parent in the attacks of 9/11. Let’s ignore the fact that this kid was an infant in 2001, because this is simply an excuse for him to exhibit blatant Islamophobia which can be corrected by Dusty, rather than any adult figures in his life.  

Similarly, Savannah’s grief can be battled by fighting against the injustice of her father’s friend withholding an expensive baseball card (Babe Ruth, of course). Why was this man in possession of the card in the first place, rather than his wife and daughter? Don’t ask questions like that when watching A Cowgirl’s Story, a film with less logic than a child playing make-believe. In this world, soldiers are back in their California hometown recovering from injuries long before their family even knows that they were hurt in the Middle East. And lost soldiers who have been found are announced as they return home during rodeos, because rodeo announcers are obviously always the first to hear news like this.

The one thing that Armstrong seems to have forgotten in his attempt to make a patriotic film that also considers the feelings of Muslims in America was actual horseback riding. Even Dusty only appears on a horse a couple of times, and no tricks are done. The equestrian drill team is more of a metaphor for the film, as the only time they actually perform is skipped over. This doesn’t stop them from all having an absurd costume (seen on the cover, sans the male members of the team) despite making it clear that they barely have enough money to form the team in the first place. And in case all of this isn’t ridiculous enough, the ghost of a deceased parent even shows up in one of the climactic sequences, adding an element of faith integration to the already overstuffed narrative.
        There are no special features. There is no reason to watch this film if you are over the age of thirteen.

Entertainment Value: 3/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 2/10
Historical Significance:  0/10
Special Features: 0/10


Anonymous said...

I have to disagree - sure the movie veers into sap and melodrama a little too much for my liking, but I found the different "propaganda" to be balanced and realistic. Not enough time with the horses; I can agree with that. Still, the movie is appropriate for all ages, and I plan to buy several copies at Christmas to give to family members as gifts - from age 5 to 95.

Anonymous said...

agree. This movie had some serious mistakes. It was Painfully evident that their was no Military adviser. Uniform, Appearance, Rank, Jargon were terrible. The "Ranger Handshake" was a made up element of the film. Every Military aspect from death benefits, to notification of next of kin's status was wrong. This film could have been so much better if an Army Military Advisor would have been utilized. The family member who was the Helicopter Pilot could have also been linked to the Air Cavalry. Where the Traditions of the old horse Cavalry are carried on and where members wear Cavalry Stetsons and Spurs. It is painfully clear the writers attempt at a faith based patriotic film did not have basic military knowledge to make this film a success.

Anonymous said...

Watching it now. It's not a perfect movies but it's worth watching at any age.