McKenna Shoots for the Stars (a J!-ENT Children’s Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 3, 2012 by  

“McKenna Shoots for the Stars” is a film about the importance of friendship but also one gaining the confidence to confront one’s fears.  Another positive “American Girl” family film for girls and just in time before the Summer Olympics!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: McKenna Shoots for the Stars


DURATION: 94 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD MA and Espanol DTS Surround 5.1, Subtitles: English SDH, French and Espanol

COMPANY: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: June 5, 2012

Directed by Vince Marcello

Screenplay by Jessica O’Toole, Amy Rardin

Produced by Steven Brown, Debra Martin Chase, Gaylyn Fraiche

Co-Producer: Ellen Rutter, Kim Todd

Cinematography by Jon Joffin

Edited by Paul Millspaugh

Casting by Elizabeth Lang, Marcia Ross

Production Design by Craig Sandells

Set Decoration by Andrea Spakowski

Costume Design by Mary Partridge-Raynor


Jade Pettyjohn as McKenna Brooks

Kerris Dorsey as Josie Myers

Nia Vardalos as McKenna’s mother (Mrs. Brooks)

Ian Zeiring as McKenna’s father (Mr. Brooks)

Talia Pura as Grandma

Toulane Thomas as Ysa Penarejo

Kally Berard as Sierra Kuchinko

George Chiang as Mr. Wu

Cathy Rigby as Coach Isabelle Manning

Emma Leipsic as Megan Murphy

Meet McKenna Brooks™, a determined and confident young gymnast, in this all-new modern-day adventure. McKenna™ is on track to make the regional competitive gymnastics team but off-track in school, where she’s suddenly struggling to keep up.  When her teacher suggests a tutor, she’s embarrassed and desperate to keep it a secret from her friends. Then a bad fall at the gym sidetracks her from her favorite sport.  Will she recover in time to make the team? Can she succeed in school, too?  McKenna™ needs to focus on her strengths to overcome her challenges – and, with the help of family and friends, find a way to believe in herself again.

With the Summer Olympics around the corner and many athletes are competing for a spot, what better timing to promote competitive gymnastics with the Blu-ray and DVD release of “McKenna Shoots for the Stars”.

The film is part of the “American Girl” line which have sold over 139 million books and 21 million dolls began releasing films since 2003.  Part of the line includes “An American Girl Holiday” starring AnnaSophia Robb, “An American Girl Adventure” with Shailene Woodley, “Molly: An American Girl on the Home Front” featuring Maya Ritter and in 2008, the first theatrical “American Girl” film titled “Kit Kittredge: An American Girl” featuring Abigail Breslin.

The films have earned the loyalty of millions of girls and received praises by parents and teachers.

For “McKenna Shoots for the Stars”, before it airs on NBC on July 14th, the film will be released on Blu-ray/DVD, Digital Copy and UltraViolet on July 3rd.

The telefilm will star Jade Pettyjohn (“The United States of Tara”) playing the main lead character McKenna Brooks and the film will also star Nia Vardalos (“My Big Fat Gree Wedding”, “My Life in Ruins”, Ian Zeiring (“Beverly Hills 90210”), “Kerris Dorsey (“Moneyball”, “Brothers and Sisters”) and former Olympic gymnast Cathy Rigby.

“McKenna Shoots for the Stars” revolves around McKenna Brooks, a young girl who is trying to make the regional competitive gymnastics team.  But she tends to be impulsive in her decisions.

For example, her coach Isabelle Manning (as portrayed by Cathie Rigby) tries to tell her not to pull of complex moves on the balance beam but McKenna does it anyway.  And her focus on gymnastics is taking a toll on her schoolwork as she forgets to study and one day at school, she cheats on a test.  And as much as her parents want her to succeed in gymnastics, they want her to do well in school and that being the primary focus.

So, McKenna’s teacher, Mr. Wu (as portrayed by George Chiang), assigns McKenna to a tutor, Josie (as portrayed by Kerris Dorsey).

But because Josie is in a wheelchair and doesn’t want people to know that she needs a tutor, McKenna tries to avoid studying and being seen with Josie.

One day, McKenna tries to pull of a complicated move, which her coach has advised her not to do and in the process, McKenna injures her foot.  Now with no gymnastics until she heals, McKenna’s father (as portrayed by Ian Ziering) and her mother (as portrayed by Nia Vardalos) emphasize that now she has no reason to not have a tutor and to focus on her schoolwork.

And as McKenna tries to keep her having a tutor a big secret from her friends and tells them that she is receiving physical therapy.  But when he best friend Toulaine (as portrayed by Ysa Penarejo) discovers that she is being tutored, McKenna and Toulaine get into an argument because McKenna never told her the truth about being tutored.  And Toulaine also thinks that McKenna has chosen a new best friend and is jealous to the point that both girls stop talking to each other.

With Toulaine mad at her and McKenna’s parents wanting her to focus on being tutored by Josie, McKenna and Josie then become very close friends.  Also, McKenna’s grade continues to get better and better.  And McKenna begins to accept Josie’s disability which inspires Josie to ride challenging horses.

But as the days near to the day McKenna is to take off her cast, Josie invites McKenna to watch her ride a new horse.  But McKenna wants to take off her cast and compete again and tells Josie that she wants to get back to her old life.

But will McKenna let Josie into her “old life” now that she is healed?  And with the competition around the corner, will McKenna be ready to compete?


“McKenna Shoots for the Stars” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1).  Video quality is good for a telefilm.    There is good detail on closeups such as clothing or a piece of paper, and there is a fine layer of grain.  But it’s important to note that the film is on par with other telefilms versus a theatrical film.  Don’t expect the same detail and clarity as a major theatrical film.

But “McKenna Shoots for the Stars” is well-lit and a slight DNR is used.  Considering the main demographic are girls or families that will be watching this movie, the video quality is quite appropriate.


“McKenna Shoots for the Stars” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.  The telefilm is primarily dialogue driven with surround usage mostly featuring the beats of the music played during a gymnasts’ routine.  And both dialogue and music is clear.  But one shouldnt’t expect an immersive soundtrack as this is a dialogue-driven film with few music tracks but  overall, the lossless soundtrack is appropriate for this Blu-ray release.

Subtitles are in English SDH, Espanol and Francais.


There are no special features included on this Blu-ray release.  But there is a UltraViolet code to access the streaming version of the film or the Digital Copy of “McKenna Shoots for the Stars”.

When it comes to films for a younger female audience, the “American Girl” film series has been inspirational to young girls and have received a lot of praise from parents and educators because of its positive theme.

The positive theme continues in “McKenna Shoots for the Stars”.  The film features a talented young girl named McKenna who competes in gymnastics but she is also feisty and doesn’t listen well to her parents or focus on schoolwork because of her dream of making it into the summer games.

The film tries to show that despite one having a dream, the priority is education and when McKenna’s dream seems to be dashed by her injury, a reminder that because she is still young, her years of gymnastic is not over.  The film also focus  on friendship, from telling the truth and not lying to your best friend but also acceptance.  In this case, McKenna accepting Josie who is disabled and on a wheelchair.  At first McKenna tries to hide and not wanting to be seen with Josie because she is being tutored but also because she is disabled.  Also, there is a storyline about confidence and conquering one’s fears.  So there are several lessons that a child or younger viewers can learn from “McKenna Shoots for the Stars”.

As for the parents, both Nia Vardalos and Ian Ziering do a great job of playing the role of parents but also showing that the parents support their daughter through her injury but also making sure that the child knows that education is the priority and not her gymnastics career (despite McKenna having a hard time believing that).  But the parenting storyline is well-done and the film is quite accessible for a young audience but also as a family film.

And I’m not going to nitpick over a storyline for a telefilm intended for a young audience.  What matters for parents purchasing these films are the life lessons shown in the film but also the positive influences that parents and friends can over on others.

As for the Blu-ray release, the telefilm is very good but once again, this is a title that videophiles should not even nitpick about.  It’s a telefilm, not a theatrical film and reviewers that watch these films on big screen televisions and listen to the lossless audio track from their home theater system is not the intended audience.  The video and audio were good on Blu-ray for a telefilm and I doubt the young ladies or families watching this film, will nitpick about the video quality of “McKenna Shoots for the Stars”.  But what I will nitpick is the lack of special features on the Blu-ray or DVD.  It would have been nice to hear an audio commentary or even featurette with interviews with the cast of the “McKenna Shoots for the Stars”.  Even a featurette on what “American Girl” is all about, would have been nice.  Especially if kids or parents want to purchase previous “American Girl” films or merchandise.

While there are no special features on the Blu-ray, at least this Blu-ray release comes with the DVD version of the film plus an UltraViolet code for streaming or digital copy version of “McKenna Shoots for the Stars”.

Overall, “McKenna Shoots for the Stars” is a film about the importance of friendship but also one gaining the confidence to confront one’s fears.  Another positive “American Girl” family film for girls and just in time before the Summer Olympics, parents wanting a positive film for their young girls, will definitely want to consider checking out “McKenna Shoots for the Stars”.

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