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Review: Wendy & Dixie – Wendy (2017)

Directed by: | 88 minutes | , | Actors: , , , Waldemar Kobus, , , , , , , , , Christian Skibinski, Anton Weber

One used to have his bedroom covered with posters of famous artists or movie stars, the other with heroes. And you had a third category: the horse girls. Every penny they had was spent on their hobby and every free hour in their diary they hung around in the riding school, preferably with a grooming pony or – for the girls from wealthy backgrounds, their own horse. Parents drove across town and country to take them to competitions, summer holidays were dominated by pony camps, and they devoured magazines like the “Penny”. And yes, their room was filled with pictures of stallions, mares and ponies. Although the number of horse girls, according to the official figures of the Royal Equestrian Sports Federation and the umbrella sports association NOC * NSF, has been steadily declining since the financial crisis (a 16 percent decrease compared to 2014 figures), horses are still very popular among the target group (girls with an average age of nine to sixteen). That’s why, after genre classics like “Black Beauty” (1994), “The Horse Whisperer” (1998) and “Seabiscuit” (2003), movies for horse girls are still being made.

For example, the “Wendy & Dixie” (2017) was released in Germany. With success, because a second film (original title “Wendy 2: Freundschaft für immer” (2018)) followed a year later. “Wendy & Dixie” is inspired by the German horse girl magazine “Wendy”, which first appeared in 1986 and has also produced several books and an series. The film focuses on twelve-year-old Wendy (Jule Hermann), who was once a junior riding champion, but no longer dares to climb on a horse or pony after a terrible fall. After her grandfather’s death, she goes with her parents and older brother Tom (Julius Hotz) to her grandmother (Maren Kroymann), who runs the old horse stable “Rosenborg” in the countryside. With the arrival of the modern and brand new riding school “St. Georg “It is not easy for Wendy’s somewhat chaotic grandmother to keep afloat and St. Georg owner Ulrike Immhof (Nadeshda Brennicke) has already made an offer to buy” Rosenborg “. Since her accident, Wendy has developed a fear of horses. But the encounter with an injured fungus, who escaped slaughterer Röttgers (Waldemar Kobus) and has since wandered around “Rosenborg”, has a magical attraction for her. She decides to name the animal Dixie and a special friendship develops between humans and animals. But when she shows Dixie to her parents, problems arise. Her father (Benjamin Sadler) fears she will make another smack like that, with far worse consequences, and wants to take the animal to its rightful owner. And Ulrike’s mean daughter Vanessa (Henriette Morawe), who dreams of becoming the horse champion and defeating Wendy, wants to keep Dixie to herself and decides to kidnap the animal. Röttgers has also set his sights on Dixie, who kicked the butcher invalid during his escape attempt.

Despite meager criticism, “Wendy & Dixie” managed to attract some 611,000 people to German cinemas; this makes it the third most successful German film of 2017. This is a typical film that does very well especially with a specific target group. The story is predictable and not too complicated. Carolin Hecht’s screenplay is a bit thin; the how and why Wendy and Dixie are so attracted to each other is not sufficiently elaborated and there is a lack of much-needed tension. Director Dagmar Seume does her best to translate the wafer-thin story to the screen and succeeds reasonably well. Thanks to the captivating performance of the young Jule Hermann, we feel sympathy for Wendy, and Kroymann and Hotz provide some light-hearted moments. The horse Larimar, who takes on the role of Dixie, has been in front of the camera before (in the similar youth film “Ostwind 2” from 2015) and differs somewhat from the standard film horses in appearance. That makes it all the more fascinating to watch. The surroundings (filming took place in the countryside in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia) contribute to the slightly nostalgic atmosphere: away with WiFi (much to the regret of Wendy’s mother and brother) and back to nature. If you belong to the “horse girls” category, then “Wendy & Dixie” will undoubtedly appeal to you. For the neutral viewer it takes a while; the film looks fine and Wendy and her horse are charming appearances, but the story is too flat and the tension is unfortunately completely lacking.

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