A throwback to the live-action Disney family films of yesteryear, the made-in-Oklahoma coming-of-age rodeo drama “Cowgirls N' Angels” will sweetly but deftly lasso openhearted viewers.
Since hyperactive 3-D animated features, groan-inducing cartoon/live-action mashups and PG-13-rated comic-book or toy-based actioners are typically what pass for family movies these days, “Cowgirls N' Angels” offers a refreshingly old-fashioned alternative. While the story is a bit too pat and predictable, the winning cast and Western authenticity help elevate the movie, which was filmed in Stillwater, Guthrie, Oklahoma City and Pawnee.
The debut feature from director Timothy Armstrong, who co-wrote the script with “The Omega Code” scribe Stephan Blinn, “Cowgirls N' Angels” trails young Ida Clayton (Bailee Madison, “Just Go With It”), a sassy, small-town Oklahoma girl who longs to know her father, a rodeo rider she's never met. Her harried, hardworking single mother Elaine (Alicia Witt, TV's “Friday Night Lights”) — herself the daughter of a famous rodeo champ whose sudden death left her without a support system — refuses to even reveal the name of Ida's father and strictly forbids the girl from attending any rodeos that come to town.
But Ida is lonely and neglected, so while Elaine is at work, the intrepid youngster digs through her mother's keepsake collection until she finds a postcard with her father's name on it and ventures out to the local arena to scour the rodeo ranks for her daddy.
Instead, she meets grandfatherly rodeo legend Terence Parker (Oscar nominee James Cromwell, “Babe”), who leads a female trick rider team called the Sweethearts of the Rodeo. Terence and the troupe's tack master/cowboy preacher Augustus (Frankie Faison, TV's “The Wire”) quickly recognize that Ida has a natural affinity for horses, especially their escape-artist prize gelding, and a powerful desire to belong somewhere. Realizing he knew her grandfather, Terence offers to teach Ida to ride as long as she gets her mother's consent.
‘Cowgirls N' Angels'
Starring: Bailee Madison, James Cromwell, Alicia Witt, Frankie Faison, Kathleen Rose Perkins, Dora Madison Burge, Jackson Rathbone. (Mild thematic elements and brief language.)