banner image

:: Because of Winn Dixie

Because of Winn Dixie provides good evidence that good books sometimes make bad films. Based on Kate DiCamillo’s award winning children’s novel, this sugary sweet family movie is directed by Wayne Wang (The Joy Luck Club) and stars 10-year-old Annasophia Robb.

The story centres around Opal (Robb), who has just moved to a small town in Florida with her father, the new preacher. Abandoned by her mother when she was just three years old and now friendless in her new home, Opal feels very lonely. She finds a scruffy lumbering dog at the local Winn Dixie supermarket and names him accordingly. Destructive but lovable, Winn Dixie helps Opal make friends and learn important life lessons. He also gives her the courage to speak to her father about the mother she never knew and work through the feelings of rejection she has harboured all her life.

Robb is tolerable in the lead role but leaves much to be desired. We can expect to see more of her later this year in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and can only hope that its director, Tim Burton, will draw more talent from her. Musician Dave Matthews also appears in a rare acting role, as an ex-con who works in a pet store and plays gentle music to the animals. Another name that catches the eye is that of seven-year-old Elle Fanning, sister to Dakota. Impossibly cute, she plays Sweetie-pie Thomas with somewhat less skill than her sister had at that age. There are no standout performances in this film and even the dog looks unnatural, blundering his way through poorly directed slapstick scenes. The screenplay relies heavily on literary narrative that works well on the page, but doesn’t suit this medium.

The smiling dog will have great appeal for the under twelves, though parents may wish to accompany them to explain themes such as alcoholism. Despite one or two ‘sinners’, Because of Winn Dixie is for the most part extremely wholesome and heart-warming, reflecting the strong Christian sentiments of southern USA.