It's a Smile and a Win for Winn-Dixie
Did I really just see a smiling dog; no seriously I am sure I just saw a dog smile, not once but again and again. That is probably one of the things you will remember the most about "Because of Winn-Dixie" because whilst it is a pleasant enough family movie you could say that it is also just another take on an old shaggy dog story. And by that I mean we have a lonely child who finds herself a dog and thanks to that dog not only does she have a friend but the dog helps her make a whole string of quirky friends. As such whilst "Because of Winn-Dixie" is entertaining and inoffensive as well as introducing us to the cute as a button AnnaSophia Robb and her smiling dog it's not that different to anything that has been done before.
Having moved to the town of Naomi with her father the Preacher (Jeff Daniels - 101 Dalmatians), young Opal (AnnaSophia Robb - Jumper) is feeling very lonely and sad as she is constantly wondering why her mother left her when she was just a little child. But a trip to the local supermarket changes Opal's life when she saves a dog from the pound by saying it is hers and calling it Winn-Dixie. Despite her father not to keen on having a dog, especially in their cramped trailer he agrees and before long Winn-Dixie is Opal's new friend. But it is thanks to Winn-Dixie that Opal meets a variety of characters around the town from Otis (Dave Matthews - You Don't Mess with the Zohan) who is looking after the pet shop to Gloria (Cicely Tyson) who lives alone in her isolated home, making a friend of all of them.
So in many ways the storyline to "Because of Winn-Dixie" is classic stuff, we have a lonely child and a single dad in a new town and finding things a little difficult. And so when young Opal finds herself a dog in what has to be said is an amusing scene in the supermarket we know what is to come as the dog she calls Winn-Dixie becomes her best friend and helps her make friends within the community. It does try to take things a little in a different direction as Opal makes friends with various quirky older characters from the librarian to Otis who works in the pet shop but at its heart "Because of Winn-Dixie" is no different to numerous other dog stories.
That's not to say "Because of Winn-Dixie" doesn't work and for a movie firmly aiming at a young audience it provides plenty of amusement for older audiences as well. From church services in a convenience store to Otis playing music to the pets in the store to calm them down it is jam packed full of amusing scenes. Of course with a movie featuring a shaggy dog there is some canine chaos as well and whilst not that original watching Winn-Dixie cause trouble is fun. And of course we have the fact we have a smiling dog, okay so we have a CGI enhanced smiling dog but whilst this occasionally borders on the creepy it also helps turn Winn-Dixie into a character of all it's own. Plus when we do get the doggy smile there is often a look of knowing in the face of the dog which is as amusing as anything else.
Now whilst the various Picardy Shepherds which play Winn-Dixie steal many a scene the star of "Because of Winn-Dixie" is AnnaSophia Robb in her first major movie. Now on one hand Robb delivers classic lonely young girl, cute as a button but sad yet there is something special about her because Robb delivers a confident performance and when she is angry or sad it is never over played, just a little girl going through various emotions. And as such when young Opal is happy the way Robb's face lights up is magical.
Whilst AnnaSophia Robb is the star of "Because of Winn-Dixie" she is helped by a well selected older cast. Jeff Daniels may not really do much as her father the Preacher but there is something naturally fatherly about Daniels especially in his own emotional conflict over his wife leaving him. Cicely Tyson as Gloria and Eva Marie Saint as Miss Franny both add plenty of quirks to their characters whilst Dave Matthews as Otis delivers this wonderful balance of being nervous but also calming.
What this all boils down to is that "Because of Winn-Dixie" is an entertaining movie for both young and old alike. For young audiences the cute comedy of Winn-Dixie will keep them amused and the charm of the story will entertain adults even though at its heart "Because of Winn-Dixie" is not that different to any other lonely child and shaggy dog story.
Tags: Dog Movies