Skip & Me
"Never judge a movie by the poster" is an adage which I have come to learn because if I had I would have missed out on the charming tale which is "My Dog Skip" a movie which on first glances appears like it's a children's movie featuring Frankie Muniz and a cute dog. While that's true that "My Dog Skip" is a children's movie it's also a rather charming movie that offers a nostalgic trip for those older audiences fortunate enough to watch it, taking you back to another era and sharing those emotions of the bond between a dog and it's owner.
"My Dog Skip" stars Frankie Muniz as Willie Morris a shy boy who struggles to make friends during the 1940s, that is until for his 9th birthday his mum Ellen (Diane Lane - Must Love Dogs) gives him a little puppy. From that moment Willie's life is changed for ever as not only does he now have a special friend but through the dog which he names Skip he is able to move away from being shy and makes a whole lot of friends.
Based upon Willie Morris's memoirs it has to be said that "My Dog Skip" is a much flawed movie which elaborates on the novel to turn it into something fitting a movie. It forces points with scenes which feel both contrived and manufactured to deliver an over whelming sense of emotion, sentimentality or humour. In fact it often feels so manufactured that it comes across as too sickly sweet and cutesy such as when having seen young Willie getting bullied his mother makes it look like Skip is the driving to the car.
This all sounds like I dislike My Dog Skip but far from it because despite feeling like it's trying to obviously manipulate the audience it also has an overwhelming charm to it with surpasses all that it is bad. It delivers that nostalgic feeling, giving us a sense of what life was like during those war years and throwing us a subplot around Willie's best friend Dink who returns from war a changed man. It also throws up that father son relationship where at times Willie feels like his father is too strict but slowly comes to understand him.
But at the heart of it all is that it brings to life the bond between a boy and his dog, the adventures they share, the unconditional love and loyalty the dog shows and so much more. For those who were lucky to have a dog during their childhood it will bring flooding back memories of those times but also shares that closeness for those not so fortunate. You really get a sense of how Skip changed young Willie's life and helped him to go from childhood to boyhood as the movie nicely puts it and although not shown, a sense of helping him into manhood as well.
The strange thing is that although all the cutesy canine capers, such as when Skip becomes so well known and loved that he would go off round town on his own where people would say hello to him, is annoying it actually helps build up Skip as a character in his own right making us worry about him when needed and fall in love with him instantly. The sharp eyed amongst audiences will recognize Skip as he is played by the same dogs which played Eddie in the TV show "Frasier".
Away from Skip the performances are surprisingly good with understated but enjoyable performances coming from Kevin Bacon and Diane Lane as Willie's parents throwing up something a little different to the norm with Lane delivering a more energetic, fun loving mother to contrast with Bacon's more strict and staid father. There is also Luke Wilson who actually does an equally good job in restraining his performance as Dink delivering a sense of what it felt like for men returning from war.
But it is young Frankie Muniz from "Malcolm in the Middle" who carries the movie perfectly. He delivers that cuteness you expect from a child star but also delivers the emotions of the movie perfectly from being the shy bullied kid to the one who grows in confidence thanks to Skip. Add to this the pleasant interjection from Harry Connick Jr. as the narrator reminiscing to this bygone age and the performances really do work throughout.
What this all boils down to is that whilst there is much about "My Dog Skip" which should annoy me, such as the often forced sentimentality and the elaborated humorous scenes it still charms the pants off you, allowing you to reminisce to your own childhood relationship with your dog or to share those special times for those not fortunate enough to have that childhood friendship. It may look like a children's movie but it is so much more and is a movie which despite the flaws is genuinely moving and worth a watch. If you liked "Marley & Me" then you will definitely like "My Dog Skip".
Tags: Dog Movies