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Because of Winn Dixie

Starring Jeff Daniels, Cicely Tyson, Dave Matthews, Eva Marie Saint and AnnaSophia Robb
Screenplay by Joan Singleton
Based on the novel by Kate DiCamillo
Directed by Wayne Wang

IN SHORT: Truly fine family fare. [Rated PG for thematic elements and brief mild language. 106 minutes]

There are three kinds of "family films," at least by our observation: At the bottom of the heap are those so bad even the kidlets lose interest quickly. In the middle are the films that enthrall kids and befuddle the grownups who watch over their tykes in the dark. The best are films that work on levels for both kids and adults, the kind where adults can sit in the back, assuming their own kids are big enough, and let their kids experience the movie in a world of their own.

When we first saw clips from Because of Winn Dixie -- we avoid doing this but accidents will happen -- we thought "oh, joy. Another dog with computer generated cute faces..." which is totally off the mark. Because of Winn Dixie is, simply, a story of a stray dog in an almost invisible town, and the little girl who brings the town together. All because of the stray she adopts after it is cornered in the local Winn-Dixie supermarket. The town is called Naomi, Florida. It's church doubles as a convenience store and it is there that we meet the new Preacher (Jeff Daniels) and his daughter Opal (AnnaSophia Robb). It is Opal who rescues the dog from the supermarket and, as she goes about the usual stuff associated with dogs, meets the pet store manager (singer Dave Matthews), crosses the irate landlord ("no pets!"), befriends the local librarian (Eva Marie Saint) and the town eccentric, an almost blind old lady called Gloria Dump (Cicely Tyson).

Yes there is a dog. He heroically rescues no one but he does, as we said, save the town. As Because of Winn Dixie tries to fit in all the various chapter stories of the original novel into its screenplay, it occasionally suffers from some choppiness. All of it is overwhelmed by the sheer cheer of young star Robb, who is on screen for most of the film and holds the whole thing together (yeah, yeah, even as she holds the town together too. Point made).

We only sound cynical because the kids we lug to the cineplex aren't our own. Because of Winn Dixie will work well for pre teens and young femme teens. Boys beyond thirteen may point their noses away at a movie starring <shudder> a little girl, but the younger ones shouldn't have that problem. That being said, if your kids fall into those zones, Because of Winn Dixie is highly recommended. For those who don't have kids, again as written, it works fine on its own but would fall into our rental category if we were to put the usual dollar rating on it.

We're not going to because, as with all family friendly films, the dollar ratings mean nothing. Re-read paragraph one and lay down the green.

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