There is a lot that grates about Rodeo Girl. A mother sends her 14 year old daughter off to stay with a father she has not been around for 13 years. On top of this, the man has not had contact with the girl over that time.
Add to this unrealistic scenario supporting actors who cannot act and a predictable storyline and it makes for one disappointing film. The main protagonists, i.e. Kevin Sorbo and Sophie Bolen do well in their respective roles but everyone else lets the side down.
Directed by Joel Paul Reisig from a screenplay co-written by Tricia Hopper and Aletha Rodgers, Rodeo Girl is about Pricilla Williams (Bolen), a young teen who attends boarding schools and shows her hunter/jumper horse off in New England events.
Pricilla’s mother (Janet Caine) sends her to be with her biological father so she and her new husband can enjoy a trip to Europe. The girl’s horse Lucky Lassie, or “Lassie” as she calls the mare, will accompany her to the wilds of Michigan.
Once there she is rude to Duke (Sorbo), her father, his ranch hand Sage (Derek Brandon) and his girlfriend Laura Mae (Sherryl Despres). Pricilla becomes interested in barrel racing and asks Sage to train her.
The rest of the film is about Pricilla learning the sport, trying to fit in and Duke trying to be a father to a girl he has not seen since she was one year old.
Rodeo Girl is so slow it can best be described as plodding. The story idea is sound but lacks any excitement or proper execution. As Pricilla rides “Lassie” she never goes above a canter, or lope, neither of which will win a barrel race.
It seems that this may have been down to safety. Even when she “races” Sage, the horse is not allowed to gallop. That the young teen could come in third place with that slow ambling lope around the barrels could only mean that three riders were competing.
This, perhaps more than anything else, severely damages the credibility of the film’s premise. Anyone who has watched barrel racing at rodeos anywhere knows that these young ladies ride those horses “hell for leather” around those barrels. It is exciting and the opportunity for injury is very real.
Another thing letting this film down badly is the script and the abysmal acting by all but Sorbo and Bolen. The delivery of the dialogue is so wooden that in places, it is almost painful to hear. Clunky and sounding like it has been read off of a cue card, it takes the viewer right out of the film.
Sorbo (a personal favorite from his Hercules: The Legendary Journeys days) has been making more “inspirational” films of late. “God’s Not Dead” being the best known. The actor’s close brush with death has caused him to do more family friendly films.
Rodeo Girl is family friendly. The harshest word in the film is “darn.” There are no great gouts of blood flying across the screen. No gratuitous sex or over the top violence. Even the fight towards the end of the film is oddly bloodless.
This is a good thing.
However, making a family friendly film, one that a filmgoer can cheerfully take the youngest family members to along with their overly religious grandma, should not be full of bad acting. Neither should it suffer from a poor script and unrealistic scenarios.
On top of all these the film suffered from laughable mistakes. In one scene, meant to tug at heart strings, Pricilla runs after the horse and loses her brown cowgirl hat. Sorbo’s character reaches down and picks it up and it is now a black hat.
The most obvious problems come from that slow canter that is meant to win a race against the ranch hand and come in third and second place at the rodeo. To give some credit where it is due, at the “Nationals” Pricilla and Lassie do really pelt around those barrels. It is, however, too little too late.
Rodeo Girl is a 2.5 star film. It earns one full star for Sorbo. For a film about a girl and a horse the pacing is pedestrian at best. It is streaming on Netflix at the moment. Worth a watch if the viewer knows nothing at all about rodeos or barrell racing.