My Dog Skip
Synopsis: A shy boy (Willie) gets picked on by his peers amidst the backdrop of a Yazoo, Missouri during World War II. After a cute and precocious dog is introduced into his life, he learns to break out of his shell and interact with others.
I laughed. I cried. Mostly I just felt like throwing up. This movie was just plain stupid. It's so easy to see exactly what happened. Some movie people got together and decided that America was ripe for a "feel good" movie so the pasted one together out of all the old movie cliché's they could find. There is nothing original here.
Yes, the kid was cute. So was the dog. Big fat hairy deal. The world is full of cute kids and cute dogs. The musical score is pretty good. They like to use an effective musical score to stroke every last tear they can out of you. I just felt manipulated. I have to admit it was nice to see Kevin Bacon working. I've always thought this actor has been too overlooked by Hollywood. He added some real character to the "overprotective father" role in this movie.
Beyond that this film is just a Frankenstein of earlier and far superior man-dog buddy films. The most illustrative scene was where Skip was on the table at the vet's and the whole town was taking turns in the waiting room to lend moral support. I'm sorry. I know they like their dogs in the South, but this is just plain silly. Then there is the one scene where the vet tells Willie that Skip's future is in God's hands now. As the dog lies there on the operating table (with no visible injuries, I might add), Willie cries and tells skip that he just can't die after showing Willie so much about life. The dialog here was really corny. What's really strange is that the dog seems to be lying there for hours. Doesn't this vet have other patients to work on? Perhaps they'd like a table to lie on too.
And Oh! How many times have we seen this scene before? I remember something similar in both Turner & Hooch, with Tom Hanks, and Canine Cop, with Jim Belushi. Lovable dog lies at death's door. It's probably been done a few thousand times before this.
Although not a propaganda movie at it's heart, the filmmakers never the less use every opportunity to assault us with the standard barrage of psychological manipulation. Since the film takes place in Mississippi in 1942, we are greeted with scenes of blacks suffering under Jim Crow laws at regular intervals. Since there is relatively few genuine instances of white's oppressing blacks, Hollywood uses at least two strategies in order to daily serve us up a dish of all sorts of things we "good" whites should feel guilty about. One is to simply use fiction, such as in Time to Kill. They don't try to portray the movie as factual, but they don't exactly treat it like science fiction either. The effect is to give the audience the impression that if it happens on the screen, similar things must be happening in real life.
In MDS, they simply dredge up things from the past. To their credit they keep it light. I half expected to see Willie and Skip help out the town's black population fight off mounted Klansmen. Thankfully, this never happens. We do see blacks always in menial labor type jobs, sitting in the back of the movie theater, and living in poor neighborhoods. Of course, this did happen back then, but the way the film makes sure that we are confronted with it makes everything too preachy.
The worst characteristic of this film was the huge dose of Negro Worship that they tried to force on us. Early in the film we are introduced to a local white athlete named Dink Jenkins as he ships off to war. Dink is the hero of the small town because he is so good in so many sports. We later find out that there is a black man in the town who is the sports hero to all the blacks in the town. (We are also left wondering why this star black athlete isn't serving in the military like Dink and all the other young men.) Although there is never any sports showdown between the two athletes, we are clearly led to believe that the black athlete was superior to Dink, who the whites admired so much. I suppose the lesson here is that we should abandon white athletes and only support black ones from now on and if we don't, we're racist. People support their home teams most of the time, regardless of the odds, simply because they are from the same area. I don't see anything wrong with extending my moral support to a white athlete simply because he is the same race as me, even if he doesn't have very good chances. I certainly don't think I should overlook the evil atrocities that black men commit simply because they can jump high and run fast.
Last thing. There is a really blatant anti-hunting message in the film that had very little to do with the overall topic of the movie. A recently shot deer lies dying right I front of Willie. Willie is horrified as he puts his finger on the bullet hole, even though the movie gives us no indication that he becomes a vegetarian after the shocking incident. The worst thing about this scene (not including the fact that it was done before in Bambi, another movie MDS had to copy) is the obvious safety violation of getting anywhere near a dying wild animal. Deer are strong. Real strong. A good swift kick from one can kill a grown man, let alone a nine-year old boy. It's obvious that the filmmakers were not exactly outdoor people. This explains their ideology as well as their ignorance.
All in all, this movie was solidly mediocre. If you must see a feel good movie, go rent one of the old Lassie movies. Yes, there are some cliché's in those too, but they weren't cliché's back then.
Dog Skip website.
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