My Dog Skip (PG-13)
My dog Django (named for the famous gypsy guitar player) begged me to go to My Dog Skip. Word had hit the canine grapevine that Skip, played by a whole passel of Jack Russell terriers, was up for the Oscar (Meyer Weiner) award despite fierce competition from the phone-eating Saint Bernard in Hanging Up. Always one to keep my dog happy, I went, and I didn't regret it.
My Dog Skip is based on a memoir of the same name by Willie Morris who grew up in Yazoo, Mississippi in the '40s. In the glory days of small-town America, the dog Skip could accompany his young master everywhere and play football, baseball, and have many adventures not possible in this more complicated and dangerous time. So, that's what this movie shows -- one cute vignette after another where Skip makes friends with the bullies, pretends to drive the family car, breaks the color barrier by going to the other side of the tracks, catches bad moonshiners, and makes friends with his army veteran neighbor.
There isn't really much that holds this film together besides a rather ponderous narration that says, "Skip helped me turn from a child to a boy," or "Skip helped me turn from a boy into a man." More interesting than this commentary are some good performances by Kevin Bacon, who plays Willie's dour and over-protective father, and Willie himself played by the funny-faced young actor Frankie Muniz. Most compelling of all are the dogs who play Skip -- the wizards of Hollywood animal training are able to get these dogs to do great things on command, from climbing into a toilet to running wide choreographed circles to disrupt a baseball game. By all accounts, Skip really was a remarkable animal.
For those of you who have struggled to get your dog even to sit when company comes over, Skip's amazing behavior may be the most powerful part of the tale. I found it hard to get too sentimental about the segregated South where young white boys fly around on Huffy bikes, while young black boys are mowing their lawns. So help me, I couldn't help thinking that the Civil Rights movement couldn't come soon enough to Yazoo. If you think about those things, don't go to see this film. If you don't, My Dog Skip will be fine to take your kids to see on a rainy afternoon. They'll definitely come home and give Fido a big hug, which, now that I think about it, is probably why Django wanted me to go in the first place.
-- Andrea Lucard