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BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE

SYNOPSIS:
When a large hairy mutt runs amok in the Winn-Dixie supermarket in the sleepy small town in the Southern belt of the US, 10 year old Opal (AnnaSophia Robb) readily adopts him. She and her Baptist preacher dad (Jeff Daniels) had moved again and she is rather short of friends - what with her mum gone many years. The caravan park where they stay isn't welcoming to dogs, and indeed the whole town seems humourless and cold. But Opal won't be denied her friend, and she goes to any lengths to keep the tail wagging canine - whom she christens Winn-Dixie after the supermarket. When the dog runs away during a thunderstorm - the only things he can't tolerate - Opal is heartbroken but is advised to learn to let go of things she loves. But she doesn't have to give up hope.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The popular and award winning book that gave birth to this adaptation is clearly a wonderfully engaging and wise work that entertains pre-pubescent girls while gently teaching them some of life's harder lessons. The film's tone is equally gentle, and its ambitions parallel, but there is a huge difference between a prose sentence and a film sentence, to quote director Anthony Minghella. It's one thing planting seeds in the minds of readers, it's another to bring each sentence to life on the screen.

The source material is fine, but the film seems constrained by it, with a pace that is lacklustre and enervating. It isn't the cast's fault: little AnnaSophia Robb is enchanting as Opal, with wide, expressive eyes and a simple blonde bob, a sweet smile and an irresistible way of getting her way from dad (Fell Daniels), who is a bit of a tweed jacket with a nerdy expression who is so earnest as to be dull.

Opal's longing for love, especially of her mum, drives the story. Her curiosity about why mum left is all too real and recognisable, and dad's unwillingness to reveal the reasons understandable. This is one of those harsh realities - like losing the dog - that Opal has to deal with.

Cicely Tyson is sweet as the half blind loner living on the edge of town who takes an interest in Opal, confessing her demons, and Eva Marie Saint likewise as the librarian with a story to tell.

There isn't the clear emotional trajectory we might have wished for, but the film has a bitter sweet melancholy that saves it from being bland. It also registers low on the schmaltz meter, but the zing isn't as sharp as I had expected from Wayne Wang. Young girls will no doubt love the dog, and parents should be prepared to acquire a similarly intelligent, loving and almost talkative hound soonest.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE (PG)
(USA, 2005)

CAST: AnnaSophia Robb, Jeff Daniels, Cicely Tyson, Dave Matthews, Eva Marie Saint, Courtney Jines, Nick Price, Luke Benward, Elle Fanning

PRODUCER: Trevor Albert, Joan Singleton

DIRECTOR: Wayne Wang

SCRIPT: Joan Singleton (novel by Kate DiCamillo)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Karl Walter Lindenlaub

EDITOR: Deirdre Slevin

MUSIC: Rachel Portman

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Donald Graham Burt

RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 14, 2005

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox

VIDEO RELEASE: April 5, 2006







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