Nearly two years ago I did a series of Throwback Thursday posts dedicated to reviewing a series of historical books released by American Girl (yes, that’s the doll company) about a young girl growing up in the 1970’s named Julie Albright. Since I grew up in the 1970’s myself, I thought it would be fun to compare and contrast how the books depicted the era with my own childhood memories of that same era.

I haven’t done any book reviews since that time mainly because no new books have been released in this series since 2014 (when the book A Brighter Tomorrow: My Journey With Julie came out).

Back in November American Girl came out with a short movie based on the Julie books called And the Tiara Goes to… I haven’t seen it until late last month mainly because I was diverted by a bunch of other things (mainly Artomatic). It is a second in a series of short movies American Girl have released on YouTube based on the BeForever historical characters, with only two movies having been released as of this writing. (The first one, Maryellen and the Brightest Star, is based on the 1950’s character Maryellen.) Here is the movie for you to view. I’ll write my own thoughts underneath the video.

I’ll try to refrain from posting any spoilers in case you want to read my review before watching the movie. Julie Albright is depicted in the books as being a bit of a tomboy who’s into sports so much that she willingly goes through great lengths (such as launching a petition drive) in order to be allowed to play on the school’s basketball team, even though the coach feels that only boys should be allowed to play basketball. Her favorite books are the Little House series written by Laura Ingalls Wilder based on Wilder’s real-life childhood as the daughter of pioneers in the American West. She is also depicted as being into making crafts, showing great concern about the environment, and being willing to stand up for the underdog (such as her deaf classmate, Joy). She even makes a successful run for school president because she wants to reform the school’s detention system because, based on her own personal experiences, she feels that it’s not an effective way of discipline. She has never indicated that she was into anything even remotely fashionable or girly. (In fact, it’s her older sister, Tracy, who’s portrayed as being a trendy teenager who is concerned about her looks.)

So I found the movie’s premise of Julie being interested in entering a school beauty pageant to be a bit jarring in the least. It sounds more like an activity that her older sister would get involved with, not Julie.

Come to think of it, I found the idea of an elementary school holding a girls-only beauty pageant to be pretty jarring because I don’t recall any of the elementary schools in my area (Anne Arundel County [Maryland] Public Schools) ever holding beauty pageants in the 1970’s. I think there were beauty pageants that used to be held at the Harundale Mall a few times but they were done by outside groups, not the public school system.

There were a few moments in that film. The Water Fountain Girls were initially depicted as being just as nasty and snarky as they were in the books. It was cool seeing the friendship of Julie and Ivy being depicted on screen that was pretty close to the books. It was nice that Julie’s divorced parents were portrayed as being willing to act civil and friendly around each other for their children’s sake, which can show children whose parents are going through a divorce that it’s still possible to maintain a relationship with both parents even if they don’t live together under the same roof. The scene where Julie expresses her wish to Ivy that her parents still lived together is a common wish that many children of divorce have but Julie is also shown as being reconciled to her current family situation, which can show children of divorce as how it’s possible to adjust to growing up in a broken home.

Julie’s friend and basketball teammate, T.J., doesn’t have much of a role in that movie beyond the opening scene, which is too bad since he is such a pivotal and supportive character in the books.

Even though Julie is supposed to grow up in the 1970’s, the only thing that really depicted that era was the scene where Julie is talking to Ivy on a rotary phone and both Tracy and Julie’s mom tell her to hang up the phone because Tracy has to make a phone call. (This harkens back to the days before cell phones were so prevalent when most homes had only one phone line because the cost of having two or more lines installed was very expensive. So everyone living in that household had to share the same line. Even if each room had its own telephone, all the phones shared the same line. This meant that only one person could use the phone at a time.) There were a few scenes where Julie’s mom wore hippy-style dresses that could’ve come from the 1970’s. Otherwise there wasn’t much else that let viewers know that this story was taking place in the 1970’s.

Basically I felt that the story of Julie entering a beauty pageant was a bit off compared to how she was originally depicted in the books. It’s too bad that the film didn’t do a story that’s actually based on the books, such as the big basketball game in the second Central Series book, Julie Tells Her Story (which is now only available as part of The Big Break: A Julie Classic Volume 1 BeForever book), where she frequently encounters sexism from the players on the opposing team and she gets injured enough during the game that she is escorted off the court before the game ends and is sent to the hospital. That scene, complete with Tracy having a difficult time getting a hold of both of her parents (her mother was stuck running her Gladrags store while her father was late due to his plane flight), would’ve made a far more compelling short than the storyline in And the Tiara Goes to…

Having seen And the Tiara Goes to… and the previous one featuring the 1950’s character Maryellen, I have to say that the Maryellen movie was the better of the two mainly because the story was better done. (I’ll admit that I haven’t read any of the Maryellen books so, unlike Julie’s movie, I have nothing to compare it to.) That movie made more of an effort to show that the story took place in the 1950’s than the Julie movie did in depicting the 1970’s.

So that’s it for my review. I have a feeling that American Girl will eventually make at least one movie short based on all of the BeForever characters (except for the ones that have been archived, such as Caroline Abbott from the War of 1812). If a sequel is ever made to And the Tiara Goes to… I really hope the filmmakers will make a better effort to provide more of a 1970’s atmosphere with references to current events, music, TV shows, fashion, and celebrities so today’s children will know what it was really like to live in that era. And, please, no more beauty pageant stories. That one was definitely out of character for Julie and the results seemed totally awkward on screen.

The American Girl Julie Albright Books List

The Original Central Series

Meet Julie
Julie Tells Her Story
Happy New Year, Julie
Julie and the Eagles
Julie’s Journey
Changes for Julie

The Best Friend Book

Good Luck, Ivy

The Julie Mysteries

The Tangled Web
The Puzzle of the Paper Daughter
The Silver Guitar
Lost in the City
Message in a Bottle

The BeForever Books

The Big Break: A Julie Classic Volume 1—A compilation of the first three Julie Albright Central Series books (Meet JulieJulie Tells Her Story, and Happy New Year, Julie).

Soaring High: A Julie Classic Volume 2—A compilation of the last three Julie Albright Central Series books (Julie and the EaglesJulie’s Journey, and Changes for Julie).

A Brighter Tomorrow: My Journey with Julie

Other Media Featuring Julie

And the Tiara Goes to…—A film short based on the Julie books.

Advertisements