Review of Cowgirls n' Angels

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"Cowgirls N' Angels" tells the story of Ida, a feisty and rebellious young girl, who has fantasies of finding her father, a rodeo rider. While searching for her dad, she connects with the Sweethearts of the Rodeo, a team of young female rodeo riders run by former rodeo star Terence Parker. Recognizing Ida's innate talent for trick riding, Terence recruits her for their ranks. Accepted wholeheartedly by her new "family," Ida finds a new passion that redefines her life -- and she also may find the father she's been searching for. Starring Jackson Rathbone, Bailee Madison, James Cromwell & Alicia Witt.
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Movie Review: Cowgirls n' Angels

--Rating: PG (brief language, mild thematic elements)
Length: 92 minutes
Release Date: May 25, 2012
Directed by: Timothy Armstrong
Genre: Family

"Cowgirls n' Angels" is a heartwarming coming-of-age story that stars Bailee Madison as Ida Clayton, a young girl who has a somewhat humdrum existence in rural Oklahoma. Her mother Elaine (Alicia Witt) clearly loves her, but is a single parent and has to work a lot, meaning she can't always be around. This leaves Ida with a lot of free time on her hands to daydream and let her imagination run wild.

One of the things she daydreams about most is finding out who her birth father is. Elaine has no interest in telling her who he is. In fact, she completely bottles up and gets angry when Ida brings the subject up. Not content with her mother's lack of answers, Ida does some snooping and finds an old postcard that her mother keeps hidden. It is signed from a man named Walter who appears to be a rodeo rider. Could this be her mysterious father that her mother doesn't want to ever talk about? He could be, but even if he isn't, Walter is a good substitute for the Chuck Norris poster that Ida talks to like it's her dad.

With her mother away all the time and school being out for the summer, Ida is predictably bored. Thankfully, a rodeo is coming into town, which will give her something to fill her days for awhile. It also gives her the chance to see if any of the riders are named Walter. The thought of possibly finding her real dad fills Ida with the kind of hope and enthusiasm that only a 12-year-old can muster.

Once at the rodeo, Ida finds a lot more than she bargained for. She watches an amazing group of trick horse performers called the Sweethearts of the Rodeo. It is a troupe made up of nothing but young girls, many of whom are Ida's age. She is instantly impressed and wants to meet them. She runs into their leader, cowboy legend Terence Parker (James Cromwell), a charming old man who takes an instant liking to Ida. He finds out that she is the granddaughter of a dear old friend who has passed away, which makes him like her even more. At her insistence, he agrees to train Ida to become one of the Sweethearts of the Rodeo.

The training begins transforming her in many ways. She becomes more self confident as her natural talent for horse riding grows. All of this is happening without the consent of her mother. It is amazing that Terence or any of the Sweethearts don't bother to ask her where her mother is or why she is never around. This is a very logical movie with an easy story progression, but this one hole is quite blatant. Elaine's absence does set up the plot for the big ending, though, so it is a necessary hole in an otherwise airtight script by director Timothy Armstrong and Stephan Blinn.

Ida confesses her search for her real dad to the Sweethearts, who rally around her the way that only close friends can. Being an only child, the thought of having so many close friends who are like sisters appeals to Ida, who agrees to start performing and traveling with the group. She also becomes closer with Terence, whose own daughter Kansas (Dora Madison Burge) travels with him. Ida sees the close relationship that Terence and Kansas have and yearns for the same thing with her own father, whoever he may be.

By the time the story begins to reach its conclusion, the audience is already heavily invested in what happens to Ida. They want her to find Walter, even though he might not actually be her dad. Since this is a family movie, one would assume that there is a happy ending in store. Yet, finding Walter might be sad for Ida if he turns out to be a worthless lout or if he rejects her. Despite these grim possibilities, it is obvious that the script is building towards some kind of conclusion in regards to who her father really is.

"Cowgirls n' Angels" is very family-friendly and touching. It is advisable to take some tissues to the movie theater though, because some scenes might just leave you in tears. The film definitely has an emotional conclusion, although a few other scenes between the superb Madison and Cromwell might leave audiences tearing up well before the end.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars