Both my nieces are enthusiastic American Girls fans, and between them they own several American Girl dolls. (I know they have Samantha and Kit, and think they have Kaya and Addy as well.) So they of course were excited to see the movie, which was about Samantha and her best friend Nellie, who—coincidentally, I'm sure—is the newest doll in the American Girl collection. My nephew, my brother, and I were somewhat less excited, but we sat and watched it with them last night anyway. (I watched it again tonight while babysitting.)
And truth be told, it wasn't that bad. It was utterly predictable and of course shamelessly commercial—in addition to the Samantha and Nellie dolls, who can also buy clothes and accessories for the dolls that duplicate those seen in the movie—but it was reasonably enjoyable even for an adult. (It might have helped that the screenplay was written by Marsha Norman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright.) I laughed out loud when I heard the name of a shabby orphanage that featured prominently in the story: Cold Rock Orphanage. And the matron was named Mrs. Frouchy. How delightfully Dickensian! I also liked the the little girl who played Nellie, Kelsey Lewis, who was cute as a button. (ETA: Looks like Kelsey Lewis's web site has exceeded its bandwidth. Try this one instead.)
The movie also did a pretty good job of demonstrating what life was like for poor immigrant children around the turn of the century. (The turn of the last century, that is.) I already mentioned the shabby orphanage, but they also have a scene set in a run-down clothing factory, complete with child laborers and a tyrannical shop foreman. As it happens, my nephew recently completed a social studies unit on immigrant life in the early twentieth century, and he said that based on what he had learned, the movie seemed pretty accurate. (And as an American history major, I concur.) So it's educational! Or at least not uneducational.
Anyway, if you've got young daughters or nieces, you could do a lot worse than to let them watch Samantha: An American Girl Holiday, which is—astonishingly—being released on DVD next Tuesday. fox1013, you'd probably like it too, or at least be inspired to write some slashy fanfic about Samantha and Nellie.