Because of Winn-Dixie

Release Date: February 18, 2005

'Rin Tin Tin was a punk bitch.'

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Position Staff In Brief
116/166 David Mumpower The dog is cute. The girl is adorable. The movie is a bust in spite of this.

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Opal Buloni, a ten-year-old girl whose mother abandoned the family when Opal was three, moves with her preacher father to a small town in Florida. Not knowing anyone in town, increasingly disconnected from her father as the years have passed and not being particularly outgoing given her home life, Opal soon finds herself a very lonely, isolated little girl. Until, that is, she finds big stray dog at the local supermarket, and discovers a soul even more in need of nurturing than her. She names her stray Winn-Dixie, after the supermarket where she found him, and he repays her kindness by giving her the love she so desperately craves, love that gives her the confidence to explore and uncovers the natural inquisitiveness inherent in all children. Not to mention Winn-Dixie, like all pets, is a great conversation-starter, and soon leads Opal to meet some of the more colorful characters in town, including the town librarian, the ex-con who runs the local pet shop (and tends to let his merchandise out of their cages whilst serenading them), and a nearly-blind old woman the local kids call a witch. Her exploration outside of home, coupled with her new-found friendships and her stalwart four-legged companion, give Opal the strength and courage to reach out to her father and try to mend the relationship nearly destroyed by the turmoil of her mother’s leaving. Opal also finds the courage to ask the questions that have gone unanswered for her regarding her mother and why she left.

Of course the central relationship in the film - and the one on which the success of the film hinges - is that between Opal and Winn-Dixie. The actress playing the little girl and the dog need to credibly establish the all-important bond between the lonely child and her fur-person in order for the film to work. And while the story will likely be marketed as a heart-warming family film - which based on the synopsis, it certainly qualifies as - another good angle that may be played up is the doggie factor. For those of you who aren’t dog people, and possibly not pet people period, this may seem an off-putting tack to take. But the basic premise of Because of Winn-Dixie is an excellent window onto the joys of owning a dog, and what that unconditional love can bring to its master. Those of you not into pets who’ve heard people refer to being their dog’s mommy or daddy likely think these people are nuts; Winn-Dixie should offer some insight for the uninitiated into why these fur-children come to mean so much to their human pack members. Having that unwavering loyalty, that unconditional love in one’s life can give a person courage to strike out on unexplored pathways, the comfort level to reach out to strangers in need, and the support to tackle the hard issues, knowing that there’s always going to be someone in your corner. And if you’re reading this thinking, “It’s just a dog; it doesn’t have any feelings beyond getting basic needs met”, then you’ve obviously never owned and bonded with a dog. They can change your life in ways you never thought possible, and each has a unique personality that is not only a product of its lineage but a manifestation of its heart and soul.

Yes, I’m a loony dog lady, but I’ve also experienced first-hand what a strong bond with a fur-child can do, and it is my hope that Because of Winn-Dixie can demonstrate onscreen a fair approximation of what that unconditional love is like, and how having a pet companion can enrich your life in ways you never thought possible.

Of course, none of this is meant to suggest that if you’re not a dog person, or a pet person, and you really have no interest in ever becoming a dog person or pet person, that you won’t enjoy the film. As mentioned earlier, this will not just be a film about a young girl and her dog, but a film about relationships, the importance of family, and how sometimes we distance ourselves from the people we need most without even realizing it. And the film definitely sounds like it will be kid-friendly and aimed squarely at the family market. And a well-made family drama with a side-order of pet love should make for a nice outing at the theatre indeed.
(Stephanie Star Smith/BOP)

Vital statistics for Because of Winn-Dixie
Main Cast Jeff Daniels, Annasophia Robb, Eva Marie Saint, Cicely Tyson, Dave Matthews
Supporting Cast Elle Fanning, Courtney Jines
Director Wayne Wang
Screenwriter Joan V. Singleton, Kate DiCamillo (novel)
Distributor Twentieth Century Fox
Trailer Click Here for Trailer
Official Site
Rating PG
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture

Comparison films for Because of Winn-Dixie
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101 Dalmatians 7/12/9110.28 14.72 1777 5785.00 7969.8 60.83 87.12 5.92
Homeward Bound * 2/12/938.21 11.95 1702 4824.00 6758.3 41.65 60.66 5.06
My Dog Skip 3/3/005.86 6.55 2331 2514.00 2705.2 34.10 38.14 5.70
Air Bud 8/1/974.72 6.20 1795 2630.00 3323.3 23.81 31.27 5.04



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