Worth A Look: 33.33%
Just Average: 27.45%
Pretty Crappy: 19.61%
4 reviews, 27 user ratings
|Because of Winn-Dixie
by Erik Childress
As critics we all have our share of biases. We’ll usually defend our favorite directors to the death. We’ll occasionally wish death upon those actors and filmmakers we consider talent-free and a general Cancer to the industry. I’ve done both of these things. But maybe not as often as I’ve recommended a cute little animal movie because, well sue me, they’re just so darned cute. It doesn’t make me entirely soft on my criticisms, even if I did give a decent review to Benji: Off The Leash because it was the first doggie movie I saw since I lost mine. I admitted that. Enroll me in PETA, send me to doggie heaven, whatever. But I cannot spread my biased love to a film like Because of Winn-Dixie; which is such a misfire that even the title can think of nothing else but to blame the poor dog.Poor Opal (Annasophia Robb, a sweetheart of a newcomer) had her mom abandon her when she was only three. Not such a big deal. I just feel bad that was named after a computer language. So traumatized is Opal that apparently she can only refer to the guardian in her life (Jeff Daniels) as “Preacher” as opposed to the traditional “dad”, “father” or “papa.” It’s an appropriate name though for daddy since on Sunday’s he runs the local mass within an abandoned shop. Yep its one of those poor Florida towns where the library is nothing more than a house and the pet store contains pigs, monkeys and goats but not a single dog.
"Put The Audience Out Of Its Misery"
While Opal peruses the local Winn-Dixie supermarket one day, a doggie gets loose and begins creating quite a ruckus. Without a friend or creativity to choose a proper name, Opal dubs said doggie after the name of the store. I suppose it’s in the little guy’s blessing that he wasn’t found in a Target or Chungsol’s Korean Chow-Down.
Opal and the roving advertisement Winn-Dixie become fast friends despite the initial “you can’t keep that dog” from the Preacher and the grouchy trailer landlord. The town is actually quite full of sullen, withdrawn characters. Dave Matthews watches over the animal shop as Ace Ventura: Pet Musician, a drifter who was in jail with nothing more than a guitar and a song in his heart. There’s the librarian (Eva Marie Saint) who’s never been married. (Say, isn’t there a grouchy trailer landlord available?) Care to meet the blind, black woman (Cicely Tyson) who has hung all the bottles she’s ever drank on the tree outside her home? (I neglected to hear whether it was a yearly problem or one helluva weekend bender.) Let’s not forget the scowling little girl whose brother drowned or the two little Romper Stomper spawns; one with a secret crush on Opal. But that’s all going to change because of Winn-Dixie. See what I mean?
The film’s lessons have all the grace and subtlety of South Park’s Mr. Mackey. “Um, drugs are bad. Um, jail is bad, mmmkay.” I don’t know why single library lady thought the former drunk, currently blind, black lady would enjoy reading Gone with the Wind over say, maybe, The Miracle Worker. Why not just give her The Drunk Dummy’s Guide To Slavery? Occasionally they branch out to the absurd like the Preacher’s attempt to explain why Winn-Dixie runs about during a thunderstorm. “Do you know what a pathological fear is?” First of all, what higher power made him think that the dog has such a fear? Secondly, why are you talking that way to a 10-year old? How ‘bout the dog just hates loud noises? My dog used to run and howl during a heavy storm. Christ, I still get scared occasionally in the middle of a stormy night.
For the bad rap that hyper-realism gets on TV shows, you won’t believe some of the things that come out of these character’s mouths. At one point, a Lozenge is introduced as a key element to getting everyone in touch with their feelings. Crazy library lady has been hoarding what’s left of them since the Lozenge factory closed down. She gives them to the children like candy whose secret ingredient is sorrow and rhapsodizes that “life is like a Littmus Lozenge.” Now I’m aware that Forrest Gump is a beloved philosopher, but I don’t see how changing the metaphor from chocolaty goodness to the bitter sting of cough medicine is the best lesson for children. (And this is coming from someone who thinks kids should be toughened up. Not depressed!) But let’s ask the townfolk. We’ve secretly switched their Halls Mentho-Lyptus with a Littmus Lozenge. Let’s see what they think.
Opal, do you like the Littmus Lozenge?
OPAL: “Yes, but it makes me sad.”
How about you, Dave Matthews?
OTIS (as Dave Matthews): “Tastes like music. Reminds me of being in jail.”
Not something we can put on the advertising, but OK. Over here, we’ve spotted Dakota Fanning’s little sister, Elle. What do you think, little girl?
SWEETIE PIE THOMAS (as Dakota’s little sister): “That tastes like not having a job.”
Hmmm, odd response, but makes sense when you realize that Dakota is getting all the work.
How about the two young boys with the crewcuts?
THE ROMPER STOMPER TWINS: “We missed out on the candy. Now they’re just talkin’ ‘bout how they feel.”
Pretty much sums up the whole movie right there. If I may interject that we just spent all this time on an EFFING COUGH DROP! Jeez, it’s not even a Cherry Ludens that you can suck on like candy and not get in trouble in school since you could pass it off as medicine. I think I’ve now actually got a pathological fear of Lazonges since I’ll remember this movie every time I develop a sore throat.Parents shouldn’t be fooled into thinking this is just another cute and wacky doggie movie for the kids. It takes itself seriously enough (WAY too seriously) to fall into the “take-the-whole-family” realm but doesn’t have the charm or the beauty of something as great as My Dog Skip. Just about any age will be bored here. A child at the family screening next to me was yelling to her mother, “I don’t want to watch this anymore. I wanna go home.” Even my inner child fell asleep. Because of Winn-Dixie is akin to leaving your child with an embittered relative who can’t help but tell you all the horrific things about life when all they want to do is run outside and play with the dog. Little Elle Fanning puts a capper on the film by announcing, “We’re having a party and the theme is this dog.” Poor Winn-Dixie must have felt like the idol worship at a cult gathering. Bring on the Kool-Aid!
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originally posted: 02/18/05 00:16:57