Making the Grades
Summer's arrival can't come soon enough for Moondance Alexander (Kay Panabaker). The high-spirited freshman just wants to fit in with her classmates. But with an unusual first name, distinct fashion choices and an over exuberance that often results in clumsy behavior, she is more of a target for teasing than anything else.
On the other hand, spending a summer at home with her eccentric, art-teaching mother (Lori Loughlin) has its drawbacks, too. Luckily, Moondance holds down a part time job as a delivery person for Mr. McClancy (James Best), the owner of a horse supply shop who keeps her busy dropping off supplements and other small items to the local ranchers.
It's during one of her runs that she discovers a lost pinto pony on a country road and decides to take him home. Unfortunately her mom is firm about returning Checkers to its rightful owner, the moody and gruff Dante Longpre (Don Johnson). Not to be deterred by the loss, Moondance offers to help Dante care for his animals at the riding stable in exchange for a chance to ride the black and white horse.
Arriving early in the morning, the eager, young stable hand carefully completes all of her responsibilities and slowly begins to earn the respect of the hermit-like Dante. Finally relenting to the girl, he helps Moondance saddle up Checkers and begins teaching her the finer points of riding. Only then does Moondance discover Dante used to be a world-class horse trainer.
Begging him to help her and her new mount prepare for an upcoming jumping event, she wheedles her way into his good graces just far enough to convince him to give it a try. But entering the arena brings back a deluge of bad memories for the man who turns to the bottle to help him forget the past.
However, it soon becomes evident that Moondance and Dante both have something to offer the other. She gives him a reason to engage in life again while the quiet horse owner becomes a calming presence for the girl, teaching her the value of individuality and discipline. Working side by side in anticipation of the Bow River competition, they bring out the best in each other.
While the story line might be as common as horseflies in the barnyard, this film manages to combine stunning cinematography, strong characters and some simple twists to create a fresh, warm-hearted tale for the whole family.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Moondance Alexander.
Although we don’t know what they are, Dante admits to making some bad choices in his past that have soiled his reputation in the horse-jumping arena. What kind of decisions can be difficult to live down? How does one go about restoring his or her good name?
What does Moondance learn about individuality? How does her experience with Checkers improve her self-confidence? What part does hard work and perseverance play in a person’s self-esteem?
In what other ways does Moondance grow during the film? How does her relationship with her mother change?