Be warned: This isn't a lighthearted variation on the American TV show in which heroic pooch Lassie regularly helps her boy out of mild scrapes. English writer-director Charles Sturridge returns Lassie to her U.K. roots and hews closely to Eric Knight's classic 1940 novel, Lassie Come Home, which tells a significantly darker tale. With war looming, wealthy little Cilla (Hester Odgers) is sent from London to live in Yorkshire with her grandfather, the Duke of Rudling (Peter O'Toole); her great fear is that he'll ship her off to boarding school, which he eventually does. In the meantime, Cilla spots a beautiful collie, which her grandfather promptly decides to buy. The dog belongs to wide-eyed, 9-year-old daydreamer Joe Carraclough (Jonathan Mason), and the last thing his parents, coal miner Sam (John Lynch) and his stoic wife, Sarah (Samantha Morton), want to do is sell their boy's beloved pet. But they're plunged into desperate financial straits when the local mine closes, so Lassie is sold. Delivered to the duke's estate, Lassie wants to go home and go home she does, but every time she finds a way out of her kennel, the heartbroken Joe must return her. The duke eventually moves to his other estate at the tip of Scotland, taking Lassie and his abusive gamekeeper, Hynes (Steve Pemberton), whose mistreatment of the defiant dog escalates from harsh words to blows. But Lassie is undaunted: Helped by Cilla, who's too kindhearted to keep the devoted collie against her will, Lassie embarks on the lengthy trip back to Yorkshire, touching a series of lives along the way. After running afoul of animal control, Lassie brings together two strangers (Kelly Macdonald, Jamie Lee) and travels with a kind puppeteer (Peter Dinklage) and his scrappy terrier, Toots; Cilla, meanwhile, is inspired by Lassie's spirit to attempt a daring escape from her strict boarding school: The 1943 LASSIE COME HOME, starring then-child actors Roddy McDowall and Elizabeth Taylor as Joe and Cilla, is widely considered the gold standard to which all dog movies should aspire, but Sturridge's remake is a fine film in its own right, even though certain plot threads are either abandoned mid-film or given too little attention. The young actors are charming, O'Toole commands every scene he's in, the scenery is lush, and the animals are gorgeous, though a sighting of the Loch Ness monster seems oddly out of place in a story so firmly rooted in social and economic reality. And while the story is fundamentally a feel-good celebration of triumph over adversity, its feel-bad moments including the death of a small dog are more than a little unsettling.
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- Released: 2005
- Rating: PG
- Review: Be warned: This isn't a lighthearted variation on the American TV show in which heroic pooch Lassie regularly helps her boy out of mild scrapes. English writer-director Charles Sturridge returns Lassie to her U.K. roots and hews closely to Eric Knight's cl… (more)