A correction was made to this review on April 26, 2004.
Revisionist historical fiction meets musicvideo fantasy in “Brave New Girl,” a rags-to-riches biopic with little controversy, way too much clothing and some good singing. Based on the less-than-stellar novel “A Mother’s Gift” written by Britney Spears and her mother, Lynne, this ABC Family semiautobiographical whitewash of a movie should corral a sizable audience.
Granted, using the catchall phrase “inspired by” gives director Bobby Roth and writer Amy Talkington carte blanche with a ho-hum story, but pic is buoyed by heartfelt performances from stars Lindsey Haun and Virginia Madsen. Parents can feel comfortable about letting the 10-and-older crowd watch this family-friendly movie.
Small-town Texas girl Holly (Haun), whose dreams are bigger than the local music pageants, has tough-talkin’, tough-lovin’ mom Wanda (Madsen) working herself bankrupt trying to keep the dream alive. Holly is about to give up hope on attending the prestigious Haverty Conservatory of Music & Dance in Philadelphia, but mama won’t let a little thing like money stop them.
Through luck and pluck, Holly makes it into Haverty, but she has a hard time when her dreams run smack into reality. Holly is targeted by Angela (Barbara Mamabolo), the school’s notorious diva; ridiculed for her bumpkin accent; and tormented by teachers for her lack of classical training.
Turns out, most people in the big city are mean and snobby, as is easily discerned by their severe wardrobe and hairdos. But our twangy little country girl eventually wins their hearts through — you guessed it — hard work and determination.
Despite the cliched script, which includes subplots about a poor-little-rich-girl roommate and a boyband-wannabe love interest, the pic has its own charm, namely Haun, a Disney Channel staple who can sing up a storm. She and Madsen, who does her best to invoke Barbara Stanwyck in “Stella Dallas,” create some tender mother-daughter chemistry, nicely filling up the rather obvious plot holes that pepper the piece.
Roth keeps steady pace with the drama but tends to overcompensate during the performing sequences with ill-conceived slo-mos and blurry action. Britney Spears makes an appearance in spirit with the big show-stopping finale that reeks of all that’s wrong with “American Idol”-manufactured pop music.
Britney’s own song “Brave New Girl” is showcased, although original numbers by Steve Plunkett and Spencer Proffer are the real winners here. Tony Kosinec composed the score for the telepic.