MY DOG SKIP
Warner, $24.95, Includes two audio commentaries, deleted scenes, featurette
By Steve Vivona
I came to pet ownership relatively late in life. My wife is an animal lover and so I knew that when we married I would become one by default. At first I dreaded it, but now I've come to realize the joy an animal can bring to a home, and this is a film that celebrates that. "My Dog Skip" is the story of how a dog changes a lonely young boy's life, and helps him realize his full potential.
Frankie Muniz (TV's "Malcom in the Middle") plays Willie Morris, a shy nine-year boy living in a small Mississippi town in 1942. As the war rages in Europe all the young boys in Yazoo, Miss. are running off to fight. Willie's only friend (and idol) Dink Jenkins, the town's star athlete, joins the army leaving him alone against the bullies who plague him.
Willie's parents disagree on how to handle his lack of friends. His mother Ellen (Diane Lane) takes matters into her own hands when she buys Willie a puppy for his birthday. His father Jack (Kevin Bacon) opposes the idea, believing Willie is not mature enough to handle the responsibility it entails. Initially Jack refuses to let Willie have the puppy but he relents and agrees to give it a chance.
Willie and Skip (Eddie from TV's "Fraser") become fast friends and the two become inseparable. Their relationship is the heart of this wonderful film. Skip's love and devotion to Willie give him the strength and the confidence to overcome his shyness, even winning over those who antagonize him, and more importantly, the prettiest girl in town.
Dink suddenly returns from the army, and gossip immediately begins that he's a deserter. When Willie asks him to come to a baseball game he agrees but never shows. Upset at his performance during the game Willie takes his anger out on Skip, setting a terrible chain of events into motion that could end their relationship forever.
"My Dog Skip" is perhaps the best film to ever deal with our relationships with our pets. It is never maudlin or overly sentimental. It provides non-pet owners with a look at the transformative power an animal can have on a household. In this case a pet's unconditional love is enough to see a boy through his most difficult years and achieve his full potential.
Kevin Bacon gives a moving performance as Willie's stern father, a man who lost his leg in the Spanish Civil War. Jack loves his family but has lost something of his spirit. However when tragedy strikes he is there to bolster his son and uses the experience as a teachable moment where he passes on the wisdom of his experience.
The film evokes a simpler age and it does so effortlessly. It delves into small-town Americana and shows us the best and worst it had to offer. It's wonderful family film filled with humor, drama and even suspense.
Warner's DVD presentation is another excellent effort. There are two audio commentaries, one from director Jay Russell, who speaks enthusiastically for the film's entire 95 minutes and a shorter one from star Frankie Muniz. Four deleted scenes and a theatrical trailer round out the supplements.
The film is presented both widescreen and fullframe and the image is gorgeous. The vibrant colors of Mississippi are rendered beautifully here and either presentation is acceptable for viewing the film.