Keep your Kleenex handy as you watch My Dog Skip. With a screenplay based on the same-named autobiography of writer and editor William Weaks “Willie” Morris, the award-winning Warner Bros. film from 2000 is a poignant revisit of a period of his childhood growing up in Yazoo City, Miss. Accompanied by his Jack Russell terrier Skip, Will (Frankie Muniz) experiences life lessons of idols fallen and retrieved, bullies, first love and, above all, loyalty and friendship.
The boy-dog partnership almost doesn’t happen, when the puppy Will’s mom gives him for his eighth birthday is taken away by his father. This seeming hard-heartedness is revealed to be anything but, as the stoic dad (in a consummate performance by Kevin Bacon) describes to his wife all the heartache he is trying to protect Will from. Pointing out that Will will face these things eventually, she perseveres, and the story unfolds in multiple layers. As much for adults as children, the film offers gems of insight such as, “Give a man a label and you never need to get to know him.”
It’s fall of 1942, and shy bookworm Will is losing the support he has heretofore relied on when the town athletic hero, Will’s next-door-neighbor and seemingly only friend, is shipped off to fight the Nazis in Europe. Although Dink has been a willing mentor, he’s been more crutch than ladder, and it is Skip who helps Will grow in confidence this pivotal year.
Peopled with believable characters in the adult roles, the film centers much on relationships between Will and other kids in his small town, and their performances are uniformly excellent. And aside from a few inconsistencies (such references to both moonshiners and a six-pack), the period in World War II, pre-integration South is nicely constructed.
A REMINDER ABOUT KIDS FIRST! FILM CRITICS’ SEARCH:
Tomorrow, Oct. 20, is the last day to get those reviews entered in our first annual KIDS FIRST! Film Critics’ Search.
The videotaped reviews will be posted on KIDS FIRST!’s partner site, WonderWorldTV.com. Check it out — entries are posted there now. And be sure to vote for your choice to win. There are two more weeks, but remember that voting closes Oct. 31. Your vote is important — the popular vote will determine the 20 finalists.