An American Girl: McKenna Shoots for the Stars

An American Girl: McKenna Shoots for the Stars (released in PAL territories as American Girl: Shooting for the Stars)[2] is a 2012 American family-drama film starring actress Jade Pettyjohn,[3] Ysa Penarejo,[4] Cathy Rigby,[5] Nia Vardalos,[6] and Ian Ziering.[7] This film is based on the McKenna books in the American Girl series written by Mary Casanova. The film is also the second in the series to feature a Girl of the Year character, the first being Chrissa Stands Strong, and is the sixth film in the American Girl series overall.

An American Girl:
McKenna Shoots for the Stars
Directed byVince Marcello
Screenplay byJessica O'Toole
Amy Rardin
Based onMcKenna
by Mary Casanova
StarringJade Pettyjohn
Ysa Penarejo
Nia Vardalos
Ian Ziering
Cathy Rigby
Kerris Dorsey
George Chiang
Music byTim Wynn
Distributed byUniversal Pictures Home Entertainment
Release date
  • July 3, 2012 (2012-07-03)
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited States

The film is about the life of McKenna Brooks, as she struggles to balance her time at school and in her career as a gymnast.[5] The screenplay was written by Jessica O'Toole and Amy Rardin. The movie was directed by Vince Marcello.

A free screening of the film was held at the Tysons Corner Marriott on July 21, 2012,[8] as part of a promotional package by American Girl and Marriott.


In the Shooting Star gym, McKenna Brooks is practicing her balance beam routine, which she finishes with a challenging back handspring dismount. Coach Isabelle Manning tells McKenna that the move is too advanced for her and she should stick to the easier dismount for now. McKenna's dream is to go to the Olympics; however, her coach tells her that she needs to work up to it slowly. As McKenna begins feeling dejected, her best friend Toulane Thomas comes over and tells McKenna she was great. She then gets on about how the two of them will get into the 2016 Summer Olympics. Toulane explains that she'll be on the podium with her gold, and McKenna next to her with her silver. McKenna tells her that it'll be the other way around. For now, their immediate goal is to make the regional competitive team; as another girl, Sierra, falls, they note that she won't be much of a competition, but also comment about a girl from another team who is generally considered the best and who they feel is pretty much sure to get one of the three spots. The girls get back to gymnastics until McKenna's grandma comes into the gym with McKenna's younger twin sisters, Maisey and Mara, to pick her up.

At home, McKenna, Maisey, Mara, Mr. and Mrs. Brooks are at the table and talking about Mrs. Brooks' business, and how her guitarist didn't show up on his first day. Mr. Brooks tries to convince Mrs. Brooks to let his old rock band play at her coffee shop. Mr. Brooks starts singing one of his songs. Then, Mrs. Brooks tells Maisey and Mara to go to their room, while she and Mr. Brooks talk to McKenna. When the twins leave, McKenna thinks it's about her accidentally feeding the class pet. Mr. and Mrs. Brooks explain that Mr. Wu e-mailed them and said that McKenna's grades are slipping. Mr. Wu is concerned about McKenna's grades and he recommended that she get a reading tutor from the middle school. McKenna's parents believe that she's spending too much time on gymnastics and not enough time on school. McKenna refuses and promises to bring her grades up as there's going to be a science quiz the next day. She starts to read the science book, but doesn't understand it and quits.

The next day at school McKenna is desperate to improve her grades and ends up cheating off of Sierra's paper. McKenna gets caught by Mr. Wu. Mr. Wu gives McKenna a zero on her test and tells Mr. and Mrs. Brooks. As soon as her parents find out, McKenna's grounded and they tell her that unless she gets a tutor, she'll have to quit gymnastics. In an effort to continue gymnastics McKenna agrees to get a tutor. McKenna reluctantly meets Josie Myers at the school's library. When McKenna sees Sierra, she tries to hide. Josie doesn't understand this. After Sierra leaves, Josie tries to tutor McKenna. McKenna gets angry when she finds out Josie wants her to read "baby books". She storms out of the library and asks Mr. Wu to find her a new tutor. She tries three different tutors who won't work for her. McKenna is soon forced to go back to Josie.

At the presentation run, the Shooting Stars gymnastics team perform for the parents. When McKenna goes up, she does everything perfectly. She comes to the very end of her practice and decides to disobey the coach by doing the back handspring dismount, but falls and breaks her ankle. When McKenna comes home, she is very angry, as her parents say that the accident will allow her to focus on school now instead of gymnastics. McKenna yells at them saying they must be happy she broke her ankle as she would have nothing to do, but study, and hobbles into her room. She tears down most of her posters about the Olympics, and cries.

McKenna keeps meeting with Josie, and is soon found out by Toulane. Toulane is very upset that McKenna lied to her. McKenna still goes on a camping trip with Josie. While McKenna is reading A Little Princess, she starts to understand what she is reading. In her excitement, McKenna shows Josie her and Toulane's secret victory handshake, unaware that Toulane had been watching. Afterwards, Josie invites McKenna to go the horseback riding facility for kids with disabilities where Josie rides. McKenna first agrees, but then remembers she gets her cast off the same day and tells Josie she can't go after all, which upsets Josie. McKenna later realizes that she should go and does so, only to run into Toulane. Toulane says that McKenna showed Josie their secret handshake on their camping trip. Toulane and McKenna have a talk and make up. Meanwhile, McKenna decides to do an important school paper about gymnastics, which captures her attention in a way that schoolwork never has before.

The audition for the regional competitive meet comes around, but McKenna is nervous because she's been struggling with her dismount (the skill she was injured on) since coming back from her injury. Meanwhile, Toulane is upset and finally admits to McKenna that she's sick of competitive gymnastics; her mother has been pushing her into it so that Toulane can follow in the footsteps of her older sister, a star gymnast, and Toulane no longer enjoys it. She tells McKenna that she has been watching the rhythmic gymnastics practices and wishes she could do that instead.

During the meet, McKenna hesitates on her beam dismount, but after seeing Josie in the audience, she goes for it and sticks the landing. She and Toulane are both named to the regional competitive team, but Toulane finally confronts her mother, and is finally allowed to switch to rhythmic gymnastics, and her place on the competitive team goes to the much-improved Sierra. McKenna also does well during her presentation at school, finally bringing her grades up.


  • Jade Pettyjohn as McKenna Brooks, the 9-year-old protagonist of the movie who has a passion for gymnastics. (Kathryn White was Jade's gymnast double)
  • Ysa Penarejo as Toulane Thomas, McKenna's best friend who even though she does gymnastics, doesn't enjoy it.
  • Kally Berard as Sierra Kuchinko, the new girl in both McKenna's class and gymnastics team. She moved to Seattle from California after her parents got divorced.
  • Kerris Dorsey as Josefina "Josie" Myers, McKenna's tutor and close friend who is disabled.
  • Ian Ziering as Mr. Brooks, McKenna's father who is a high school principal.
  • Nia Vardalos as Mrs. Brooks, McKenna's mother who owns a coffee shop.
  • Talia Pura as McKenna's maternal grandmother who lives with McKenna's family.
  • Will Woytowich as Bob
  • Paula Rivera as Mrs. Thomas, Toulane's mother who is very strict when it comes to making the Regional Competitive Team.
  • George Chiang as Mr. Wu, McKenna's 4th Grade teacher who also went to gymnastics at McKenna's place.
  • Aisha Alfa as Gymnastics Competition Announcer
  • Abbey Thickson as Impatient Female Tutor
  • Emma Leipsic as Megan Murphy, a gymnast from Performig Arts Gymnastics
  • Rosie as Snowflake the horse, Josie's assigned horse she rode at Heart's and Horses
  • Cathy Rigby as Coach Isabelle Manning, McKenna's strict, but caring gymnastics coach.
  • Kadence Kendall Roach as Maisey Brooks, McKenna's 5-year-old sister who also does gymnastics.
  • Paiten Raine Roach as Mara Brooks, McKenna's 5-year-old sister who also does gymnastics.

Television release

The film aired on NBC on July 14, 2012.[9]

Home video release

The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on July 3, 2012.[1] The film was initially only available at American Girl and Wal-Mart, but was eventually released in PAL territories as American Girl: Shooting for the Stars.[2][10]


An American Girl: McKenna Shoots for the Stars was filmed in Riverbend Community School, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.[11]


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