In June 1934, Kit Kittredge (Abigail Breslin) is determined to become a reporter, and she writes articles on the typewriter in her attic while drama unfolds beneath her. The mortgage on her house is about to be foreclosed because her father lost his car dealership and couldn't keep up with the payments. He has gone to Chicago, Illinois to search for work, and to make some income her mother takes in an odd assortment of boarders, including magician Mr. Berk, dance instructor Miss Dooley, and mobile library driver Miss Bond.
Locally there have been reports of muggings and robberies supposedly committed by hobos. Kit investigates and meets young Will and Countee, who live in a hobo jungle near the Ohio River and Erie Lackawanna Railway. Kit writes a story about the camp and tries to sell it to Mr. Gibson, the mean editor of the Cincinnati newspaper, but he has no interest in the subject. She adopts a dog, her mother buys chickens, and Kit sells their eggs.
Then a locked box containing her mother's treasures is stolen, and a footprint with a star matching the one on Will's boot is discovered, making him the prime suspect. The sheriff goes to find Will and Countee. However, Will and Countee have left the hobo jungle. Kit, Stirling and Ruthie then set out to investigate on the incidents and clear Will's name. It then turns out that Mr. Berk, along with his assistant Frederich and Miss Bond, were actually the ones behind the robberies, framing Will and the rest of the hobos for the crime. Kit then becomes a local hero. They found out that Countee has been pretending to be a boy. On Thanksgiving, the hobos bring food to Kit's mother and Kit's father returns home. Mr. Gibson arrives to show Kit that she is in print in Cincinnati's major daily newspaper.
StarringAbigail Breslin as Margaret Mildred 'Kit' Kittredge
Chris O'Donnell as Jack Kittredge
Julia Ormond as Margaret Kittredge
Joan Cusack as Miss Lucinda Bond
Stanley Tucci as Mr. Jefferson Jasper Rene Berk
Ideas of a possible feature film revolving around the character had been discussed by the company for several years, although American Girl president Ellen L. Brothers stated that "it was all brand new to us", and had to explore the feasibility of a live-action film by producing made-for-television adaptations of American Girl characters. After the successes of Samantha: An American Girl Holiday and succeeding TV movies, several options were considered on making the transition to a theatrical feature.
Production of the film, which involved finalizing the script and cast, film preparations and principal photography, took up roughly four months due to limitations on part of Abigail Breslin's availability before starting another production. Camera angles were also put into consideration, with the film crew being careful not to shoot areas or objects on the set location that would be out of place in the 1930s setting. A multiple-camera setup was also used to speed up the process. Filming was done in and around Toronto, and in Tottenham, Ontario in the summer of 2006.
The costume department made use of vintage photographs by Dorothea Lange and old Sears-Roebuck catalogues for creating the cast's Depression-era clothing. As the Kittredge family would spend less on extra clothing, the costumes were distressed using sandpaper and trisodium phosphate, fading the colors of the clothes to give a more aged, worn out feel.
Among some of the vehicles used in the film, several 1934 Chrysler Airflows were used, one of which was driven by Kit's father. Besides the Airflow, a green 1933 Plymouth PC sedan and several 1933 Dodge DPs were also used. The car lot was portrayed as a Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge dealership in Cincinnati in 1934. An antique 'Peter Whit' Toronto Transit Commission street car stood in for a City of Cincinnati one.
The film received generally favorable reviews from critics. As of April 29, 2011, the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 79% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 98 reviews, and gave it a Golden Tomato for Best Kids Film of 2008. Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 63 out of 100, based on 27 reviews.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times said, "It has a great look, engaging performances, real substance and even a few whispers of political ideas", and in The New York Times, Jeannette Catsoulis said, "this classy, heart-on-its-sleeve movie is packed with laudable life lessons." Elizabeth Weitzman of the New York Daily News called it "resolutely old-fashioned" and thought "the script feels a little stiff and moralistic at times," but added, "it's hard to fault a film with such an intelligent, good-hearted heroine." Megan Basham of World Magazine said, "Even if young fans can't relate the struggles in the movie to their own life, Kit still offers more than the shows and movies typically aimed at the tween girl market. Besides the simple educational value of giving them a picture to connect with their history lessons, the film also focuses on more significant themes than the materialism and prettiness championed."
A less favorable review came from James Verniere of The Boston Herald, calling the film "one-dimensional" and saying "I have no argument with the theme of empowerment aimed at an audience of girls. I do, however, take exception to a plot that is banal and predictable and performances that run the gamut from just OK to risible,"
Kit Kittredge: An American Girl was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on October 28, 2008, the only special feature being American Girl trailers.
There are also enhanced DVD-ROM features including an HBO First Look and deleted scenes.
As part of a 4 disc set with 3 other American Girl films, it includes a deleted scene, an HBO look, a featurette on the casting, and a look at the 1930s.