24 March 2000 | Movie-12
A gentle, heartfelt and emotional picture. *** out of ****.
MY DOG SKIP / (2000) *** Starring: Frankie Muniz, Kevin Bacon, Luke Wilson, and Diane Lane Directed by Jay Russell. Written by Gail Gilchriest, based on the book by Willie Morris. Running time: 95 minutes. Rated PG (for brief violence and mild language).
"My Dog Skip" is an emotionally effective and challengingly involving piece of cinema. The film, directed by Jay Russell, based on a writing by Willie Morris, works well because it proves two theories: 1) The war affected not only the soldiers in battle, but also normal families in minor but critical methods, and 2) Childhood can be best remembered by our fond memories with the family's dog. These elements present the audience with an accurate and knowledgeable atmosphere with memorable characters and issues.
The movie is set in the summer of 1942. The story explores a family of three, Jack, Ellen, and Willie Morris. Jack (Kevin Bacon) is the heartbroken father who lost his leg in war years ago. Ellen (Diane Lane) is the simple minded housewife doing more manual labors than women usually complete. Willie (TV's Frankie Muniz) is their lonely son-maybe ten years of age. He has no local friends, is poor at sports and teased at school. His best acquaintance is in his mid twenties, a mechanic named Dink (Luke Wilson), who is called for battle not too long into the picture, leaving Willie all alone.
Ellen decides to go against father's orders and purchase Willie a faithful companion of his own for his birthday: a puppy. Although Jack firmly opposes this gift, his wife convinces him Willie is old enough to take care of a dog. Willie names his new friend Skip, who drinks out of the toilet, does not obey commands, and seemingly understands human emotions.
"My Dog Skip" wisely uses the war as a mood developing overtone; a background event that provokes confusion in Willie and gradually changes the lives of those around him. The time period is ideal for such a film to take place. The filmmakers produce a lifelike atmosphere that perfectly defines what living in the 1940's was like.
The film features beautiful and captivating performances by everyone in the cast. Frankie Muniz, from Fox's "Malcolm in the Middle" on TV, is very effective and well cast. He creates the appropriate narrative connection the film depends upon. Kevin Bacon is broad yet poignant, with a bold mood of a father in the 40's. Luke Wilson is also successful here, making his dynamic character obvious throughout. Diane Lane does not have enough screen time to explore any real material, but creates rich character chemistry with Bacon.
The movie could investigate the Luke Wilson character more thoroughly. About half way into the story, "My Dog Skip" nearly drops this seemingly important character only to later bring him back to supply the plot with several crucial sequences. Skip's intelligence appears to altered in various scenes throughout the production. In one scene, the dog will presumably understand human emotion and restore motivation. In others he cannot accomplish simple tricks and drinks out of the family toilet. This animal, although very significant character, needs to be more consistent and less exaggerated.
Most of the film's dialogue is right on the money; smart and fitting. It is not too straightforward or excessively blunt, but gentle and thematic. Most of "My Dog Skip" is gentle-hearted, however, and provides the lovable atmosphere that starving audiences are searching for, along with high quality and entertaining situations, in family based movies. If this description fits you, regardless of age, this is the movie you are looking for.
"My Dog Skip" is brought to you by Warner Bros.