February 21, 2005

Because of Winn Dixie

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There I was — alone, surrounded by a dozen or so kids with their parents. Of the five people I know in all of Cornell, I could not convince one to sit with me for one hour and 46 minutes to see Because of Winn-Dixie. I would like to think my going alone was due to my movie of choice, but instead I feel like it just could have been me. However, after the credits rolled, watching this movie in place of studying for a stats prelim wasn’t so bad.

Because of Winn-Dixie shares the name of the best-selling novel by Kate DiCamillo while its co-main character, Winn-Dixie the dog, shares his name with the Southeastern food retailer. That’s a lot of sharing going on, so I figure I’ll share a little bit about the movie with you since it seems highly unlikely that any other Cornell student besides me is going to spare two hours and $6.25 on an undeniably identified family film (but hopefully this review will sway you to do otherwise).

Eleven-year-old newcomer Anna Sophia Robb plays India Opal Buloni, pronounced just like the lunchmeat, the daughter of a preacher who lost his wife for some undisclosed reason (undisclosed until you guys go and see the movie that is). Little Opal and her dad (Jeff Daniels) have just moved to small Naomi, Florida population, 2,524. Her dad has become the new local preacher at a church that meets at an old Pick-It-Quick convenience store (seems the writer of the screenplay is a bit obsessed with food stores, eh?).

Friendless, lonely and curious about her mother’s absence, Opal’s life takes a turn for the better with a trip to the local Winn-Dixie. Only to bring back home a “big, furry, stinky” dog who comes to be known as Winn-Dixie.

What follows from the first meeting of Opal and Winn-Dixie was quite predictable: kid finds dog, kid wants to keep dog, dad says no, dad grows fond of dog, unfriendly neighbor bans dog, pound comes to get dog, kid talks parent into keeping it and dog becomes part of family. Of course reality does not follow quite so smoothly — at least it did not in my household where it took me two years to finally get my dog. Anyways, this sequence occupies a large chunk of the movie and is quite predictable, not entirely relevant to the plot and most likely included to make the film last to the maximum amount of time it could before the small bladders of young viewers burst and their attention spans reach their maximum latitudes.

During this time we are introduced to Dave Matthews, making his cinematic debut playing the goes-by-one-name-like-Madonna pet store employee and former prison inmate Otis. It is quite interesting to see the singer we all know act as the unproclaimed animal whisperer, who uses his crooning and guitar strumming to entertain the live-animal merchandise in Gertrude’s Pet Store.

As Opal and Winn-Dixie become more acquainted with one another and the town locals, relationships form and revelations are made. Opal comes to better terms with her father, learns about her mother and her newly made friends teach her a thing or too about how to share joy.

Alright, so I don’t want to give away the movie, but basically it is a cute family film — perfect for seeing when you need a moralistic pick-me-up in between studying and partying or a distraction needed for the brat kids you’re babysitting. But since I’ve seen the film, I really wanna go the local SPCA, find a dog, name it Wegman’s and hope my life will change. Because sometimes it just takes a homeless dog to find peace in your life.

Archived article by Jennifer Rice Sun Contributor