24 March 2001 | Movie-12
Good spirit and the right attitude, but the rest of the elements of a great movie just are not here. ** (out of four)
A DOG OF FLANDERS / (1999) ** (out of four)
By Blake French:
"A Dog of Flanders" is a sweet, gentle, lovely motion picture about a young boy's desires and relationships with his everyday neighbors. It is the kind of movie that has its heart in the right place, but the quality of filmmaking is just not present. I feel a subtle guilt for giving the film a negative review because "A Dog of Flanders," directed by Kevin Brodie, is of such innocence and kindness. But the movie has an appearance quality of an callow amateur-contrived dialogue, typical costume designs, shameless sets-not surprisingly its filmmakers are fairly new at this business.
Bruce McGill ("The Legend of Bagger Vance") and the veteran actor Jon Voight are a few of the recognizable names in the cast. Many of the remaining performers are either not remotely popular or dried out has-beens, even though they do a considerably good job at portraying the tender characters.
"A Dog of Flanders" has been done before, on TV and in the movies. This is not to say there's no reason to refresh Ouida's sentimental fable since most of us probably have not seen any of the previous versions. Here, we get the same kind of sappy scenes and heavyhearted noble messages, dealing with issues like poverty, trust, death, passion, self confidence, following your dreams, hopelessness, regret, mistakes, and or course, love. The film is not really about a dog, though but about a boy who lost his mother at an early age and raised by his poor elderly grandfather.
The boy, named Nello (Jeremy James Kissner), finds a dog left for dead in the snow and adopts him (her?) and falls in love with both the dog and a rich girl named Aloise (Madylin Sweeten). Because of his social status, her philistine father wants his daughter to have no part with Nello. Nello also becomes friends with an proficient artist, Michel de la Grande (Jon Voight), who takes an interest in the boy's drawings and encourages him to enter a big art contest.
Jon Voight is good in his role, feeling confident and classy, a major step up from his performance in the painfully rotten horror flick "Anaconda." Jeremy James Kissner provides the film with an empathetic performance that is sweet and sweet-tempered. Jack Warden portrays a character with frailty and charm. However, there are just too many familiar clichés in the plot to recommend the picture. Many kids will find it boring and tedious, as will many adults. "A Dog of Flanders" has enough spirit and the right attitude, but the rest of the essential elements of a successful movie just are not here.