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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Saddle Club
The Saddle Club
Warner Bros. // Unrated // June 18, 2002
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by D.K. Holm | posted June 26, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

It could be a very expensive proposition if parents indulge their kids and rent them The Saddle Club: "Adventures at Pine Hollow." The first TV movie derived from two popular series of young adult books The Saddle Club and Pine Hollow by Bonnie Bryant, it could turn an innocent pair of parents into the caretakers of a budding young horsegirl, screaming for a pony for Christmas, and introducing the smell of tack, saddle soap, and muddy boots into the household.

Developed for TV by Sarah Dodd and filmed in Australian, The Saddle Club: "Adventures at Pine Hollow" required four credited writers (Helen Steel, Sarah Dodd, Graeme Farmer, and Annie Beach) and three directors (Chris Martin-Jones, Steve Mann, and Peter Sharp). This is fairly predictable stuff. If you have seen L'll Darlings, you've got the template. A core group of nice girls, and a spoiled brat to make their lives hell. Music cues guide you how to feel.

The Saddle Club itself consists first of a motherless child named Carole Hanson (Keenan MacWilliam), who wants to grow up to be a vet. Her friends are tomboy Stevie Lake (Sophie Bennett) , and nervous honor student Lisa Atwood (Lara Jean Marshall) .Their nemesis is spoiled rich girl Veronica D'Angelo (Heli Simpson), whose principal emotion is gape-mouthed exasperation. They congregate at the Pine Hollow riding club, where Max (Brett Tucker, who looks like Tom Berenger) gives instruction.

As is conventional in this genre, the themes are solidarity and being "true to your self." Because this is geared to a slightly older age group, there is also some budding love stories as well. But mostly the love affairs are with the horses. They are as much of the cast as the girls, and they include Patch, a brown and white pinto, the beginners' horse, and Prancer, for advanced students. Lisa rides a Chestnut Thoroughbred. Stevie rides Comanche, a bay gelding owned by the school. Carole's horse is Starlight, a buckskin gelding, bought with money she inherited. Veronica rides Cobalt, a black stallion.

With so many people involved in its making, The Saddle Club: "Adventures at Pine Hollow" has a programmatic, soulless, corporate feel. So do many Disney films, but they also have iconic images that permeate the culture. Saddle Club will probably seduce the kids watching it, but it also relies on some stereotypes that imprison the narrative. The movie actually feels like two 40 minute episodes of a series stapled together, but it does succeed in introducing all the characters and setting up the possibility of a franchise that will keep the girls busy so the adults can sneak off and have fun.


The DVD

VIDEO: The full frame image on this Warner Home Entertainment disc is speckle free, but sometimes occasionally soft. Cinematography is credited to Gary Moore and is purely functional, but more than matches the material.

SOUND: The Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround track comes in English and Spanish, and is adequate for what is essentially a TV movie. The film is also available in Spanish, with English and Spanish subtitles.

MENUS: The half silent, half musical, but static, menu offers 11 chapter scene selection for the 85 minute telefeature.

PACKAGING: A typical Warners snap case offers numerous color pix of the girls, along with a scene selection break down.

EXTRAS:There are numerous girl-sized extras on The Saddle Club: "Adventures at Pine Hollow." First there is Saddle Club Girls' Complete Guide to Horses, a nine minute primer on the how to care for horses, which introduces some concepts relevant to the story in the film. There is also a kids' version of a music video with the four cast primary members singing the show's theme song, called "Hello, World." There is an introduction to the Saddle Club Girls, four screens of text, plus an additional four screens of text about the horse cast. Finally, there are trailers for two Scooby-Two straight to videos, and for a Tom and Jerry feature. PC DVD-ROM material includes the Saddle Club Girls' web site with chat room access.


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