Girl of the Year 2012 Movie: McKenna Shoots for the Stars

Debuted as a TV movie in July 2012


Like Chrissa's movie, this combines McKenna's books. McKennas doing well in gymnastics but struggling in fourth grade. Her parents warn her that if her grades slip too much, she'll have to cut back on gymnastics--and just when she's preparing to try out for a competitive team. But McKenna just can't keep school information in her head. Desperate, she looks at her classmate/teammate Sierra's test. McKenna's parents set her up with a tutor, Josie. Josie uses a wheelchair, which makes McKenna feel awkward at first, but Josie seems nice enough. Soon McKenna's at practice, but there she learns that her best friend Toulane probably can't go on the camping trip McKenna's family takes every year. Her mom thinks Toulane needs focus more on gymnastics so she can make the competitive team.

Soon it's time for a gymnastics meet. McKenna starts her balance beam routine. It starts well, but she tries a stunt she's not ready for and breaks her ankle on the dismount. She can still do some exercises (like bars), but she'll be in a cast until three weeks before her tryouts. Toulane sees McKenna talking privately with their teacher (about tutoring) and starts wondering what's going on, but McKenna is too embarrassed about tutoring to admit it. The girls end up fighting, with Toulane thinking the McKenna is shutting her out. Toulane eventually sees McKenna with Josie and the truth comes out. Toulane is very hurt that McKenna kept secrets from her, and the girls have a falling out.

McKenna offers an olive branch: the family camping trip got moved to this coming weekend, and she invited Toulane as she always has in the past. But when Toulane hears that Josie's coming too, she declines. McKenna and Josie are still able to have fun in Olympic National Forest on the Olympic Peninsula. They're staying at a place with wheelchair accessible paths, perfect for Josie and McKenna, who's still on crutches. Back in school, McKenna finally sees some great progress in her schoolwork. Josie tells her that she's going to a horseback riding club for kids with disabilities. She asks if McKenna can come with for moral support on her first day. McKenna happily agrees, then realizes it will conflict with the appoint she has to have her cast removed. Josie is hurt and angry that she can't reschedule (which frankly annoys me a little--McKenna's had this appointment for weeks and only just found out about the horseback riding with a couple days' notice). McKenna tries to explain how much she's looking forward to getting the cast off, but ends up insulting Josie accidentally ("Do you have any idea what it's like to be stuck in this library barely able to move?").

After some reflection, Josie's decides to reschedule having her cast off, and is able to be there for Josie. It's a good thing she comes, because she's able to grab an errant plastic bag that spooks Josie's horse. And it turns out that Josie invited Toulane, giving the girls a chance to talk. Toulane questions how much McKenna really cares about gymnastics, and more to the point, their friendship--McKenna invited Josie on the camping trip, and showed her their special handshake. McKenna explains that she never meant to hurt Toulane, and that she was excited that schoolwork was finally making sense. The friends make up.

Soon McKenna's cast is off, and her leg is magically healed (I had my broken ankle in a cast for six weeks, not eight, and my calf muscle was noticeably smaller when I got it off). She goes back to practice without even an ankle brace and only a mental block to get over, right back on the regular balance beam instead of the shorter practice one she started with in the book. But Toulane is there to encourage McKenna and cheer on her best friend. She throws herself into gymnastics and school, making progress with both. The day of the tryout/meet, she still hasn't nailed her dismount, but with Toulane and Josie cheering her on, she has the confidence to stick it (looks like there's no time limit for the routines any more? She takes a while). Toulane herself needs some encouragement, but to stand up to her mom and tell her that she doesn't want to compete on such a high level. She'd rather have fun with rhythmic gymnastics. At then end of the meet, the three qualifiers to the competitive team are announced: Toulane, a girl from another team, and McKenna. Toulane's mother finally notices her daughter's lack of enthusiasm, and Toulane tells her everything. Toulane relinquishes her spot, and Sierra (who is a very minor character in the movie) makes the team. McKenna, Toulane, Josie, and Sierra all go out to celebrate.

The movie closes on McKenna giving a big oral report to a gathering of students, from a podium, and delivering it well. No Space Needle dinner, sadly.


Filmed in Canada (Winnipeg)--aside fro the usual establishing shots of Seattle (Space Needle, Pike Place Market, Mount Rainier, Elliot Bay, etc). Most of the scenes look like a generic city, but I can tell it's not set here because there aren't enough deciduous trees--there should be lots of maple, oak, poplar, and alder trees in addition to the conifers. There's also one shot just after McKenna and Toulane see a rhythmic gymnastics practice that shows a Canadian mail box--we don't have those in Seattle. There is a Washington state flag in the school library, though. Manitoba's flag looks nothing like Washington's (it's red instead of green) so that was deliberate.

It looks like one twin is taller than the other, which reminds me of two friends of mine who look similar pretending to be fraternal twins when we were pre-teens. One is taller and they told people--on a ferry ride--that the grew at different rates and would be the same height when the were adults.

McKenna's dad used to be in a band. Because it's Seattle, it was a grunge band.

In the book, the trip to the Peninsula came up out of nowhere, just a spontaneous for-fun thing. In the movie, a family camping trip is an annual event.

McKenna tries out several tutors when she balks at Josie's suggestion to practice reading comprehension with books meant for younger children. The montage of tutors whose styles don't work with McKenna is funny.

I'm pretty sure there's a stunt double for the gymnastics portions--you almost never see the actor's faces, and the girl playing McKenna is fit but doesn't have the muscular definition I'd expect a serious gymnast to have.

Thank you, Mrs. Brooks! McKenna's dad starts saying "Your coach warned you..." right away when she breaks her ankle. Mrs. Brooks shakes her head for him to stop. You can wait to point out your daughter's hubris until at least the next day.

Toulane has a gorgeous gymnastics leotard, purple with a bold design of silver stars swirled on it.

McKenna wears the same grey-and-turquoise-striped dress to school several times. I mainly noticed because it's similar to an outfit that the girl I used to nanny has.

McKenna was born two weeks early.

If you want really good pizza in Seattle, try Toscana. I love the garlic sauce so much that I only get cheese with it--it doesn't need more flavor. Jet City Pizza and Pagliacci are also really, really good. I had the former for my last two birthday dinners (pepperoni and feta on garlic sauce--got to keep the vampires away) and the latter when I watched the Seahawks win the Super Bowl. I also got a gift card from Pagliacci for a friend when her newborn had to be hospitalized until he was a week old (he's fine now, just turned one) because it's close enough to deliver to the hospital. When I asked the manager if they delivered to the hospital and told him why, he reached under the counter and gave me a Pagliacci shirt sized for a baby--free. And it used to sponsor Almost Live! when it was on the air.

The camping trip is at Olympic National Forest in the movie rather than Olympic National Park. It wasn't filmed in either; isn't enough moss on the trees, and too much scrub-like ground cover.

After riding a horse for the first time, Josie suddenly gets a Southern accent.

At the big tryout meet, the different teams parade in while they're announced (and McKenna's mom tries to get her to wave to her--let her focus, Mom). I only did one season of high school gymnastics, but I remember doing this sort of introduction. You can tell which girls are really into gymnastics by how the walk toe first and with a certain carriage.

The announcers at the meet vacillate between pronouncing Toulane's last name as to-MAS and TOM-as.

I'm surprised that no one mentions that the Olympics has rhythmic gymnastics, since 1984. Toulane could still go for the gold if she wanted to.


McKenna Brooks - Jade Pettyjohn
Josie Myers - Kerris Dorsey
Mrs. Brooks - Nia Vardalos
Mr. Brooks - Ian Zierling
Toulane Thomas - Ysa Penarejo
Isabelle Manning - Cathy Rigby (as in, the first American woman to win a medal at a world gymnastics competition, earning a silver on balance beam in the 1970 World Championships)
Sierra Kuchinko - Kally Berard
Grandma - Talia Pura
Mrs. Thomas - Paula Rivera
Mr. Wu - George Chiang
Maisey Brooks - Kadence Kendall Roach
Mara Brooks - Peyton Raine Roach
Announcer - Aisha Alfa
Cowboy Bob - Will Woytowich
Impatient Girl Tutor - Abbey Thickson
Megan Murphy - Emma Leipsic
Gymnast - Laura Cartlidge
School Librarian - Stefanie Wiens

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