Writer Willie Morris won a Pulitzer Prize for North Toward Home, his 1967 memoir about growing up in Yazoo, MS, and director Jay Russell's adaptation mines the same territory, while focusing on the terrifically personable dog young Willie received
in 1942. A shy boy who'd rather read than play sports, eight-year-old Willie (Frankie Muniz) has trouble making friends. Then along comes Skip, who's unafraid of girls, grownups and graveyards as only a dog can be. Skip emboldens Willie to talk to Rivers Applewhite (Caitlin Wachs), the prettiest
girl in town, and wins over the tough kids who used to mock Willie as a sissy. When they dare Willie to spend the night in the spooky cemetery, Skip is by his side. After Willie sees a newsreel about the army's canine corps, Skip gets put through a child's fantasy of military training. Skip is by
far the best thing about this movie; he's played by several engaging Jack Russell terriers (Skip was an English fox terrier, but Morris himself declared such details insignificant) gifted with quizzical faces and a beguilingly busy manner. Unfortunately, Skip is surrounded by movie corn. Morris'
memoir includes sharply drawn recollections of his parents (Diane Lane, Kevin Bacon) and neighbors, as well as a portrait of the segregated South made up of the petty, day-to-day injustices noticed by an observant child. But the film feels hokey, generic and dated; for all the meticulous research
that no doubt went into it, it's a vision of the past that seems to have been constructed entirely from old movies. Russell shot on location in Canton, MS, and still managed to make it look as though he filmed on a backlot. Kids will be bored; adults will admire the movies good intentions, but be
bored as well.
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- Released: 2000
- Rating: PG
- Review: Writer Willie Morris won a Pulitzer Prize for North Toward Home, his 1967 memoir about growing up in Yazoo, MS, and director Jay Russell's adaptation mines the same territory, while focusing on the terrifically personable dog young Willie received in 1942… (more)