The third boy-and-his-pooch movie to be adapted from Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's popular young-adult novels offers exactly what you've come to expect from the series: Bland but wholly innocuous family entertainment featuring a cute kid and an even cuter dog. It’s been a year since the events of SHILOH 2: SHILOH SEASON (1999), and life in the impossibly idyllic small Ameri-cun town a white-picketed place so gosh darned friendly it's actually named Friendly has momentarily returned to normal. Even mean old Judd Travers, the ex-poacher and villain of the first two SHILOH movies who so badly abused the sweet little beagle Shiloh until he was rescued by young Marty Preston (Jason Dolley, replacing Zachary Browne who replaced SHILOH’s Blake Heron), seems to have turned over a new leaf since his drunken car wreck. Marty, his father (Gerald McRaney, filling in for Michael Moriarty) and Marty’s mother (Ann Dowd) all have strong faith in a person’s ability to change, but not everyone’s so forgiving. Some townsfolk, including best friend David (Jordan Garrett), remain leery of old Judd, while Marty’s two obnoxious younger sisters, including Dara Lynn (Kyle Chavarria), a young lady of such unstable temperament she’s practically psychotic, are totally creeped out by the slovenly old loner. The bad buzz on Judd only gets worse when Marty and his friends discover an abandoned car belonging to a local man who’s been missing for the past six weeks. The last time he was seen, the man had gotten into a heated drunken argument with Judd Travers. David immediately fingers Judd, but Marty isn’t so quick to judge, and even steps up his efforts to befriend Judd by offering to build a fence in his yard so his chained-up dogs can run free. But when a rash of break-ins strikes Friendly, even Marty begins to doubt Judd's innocence, particularly after he finds Judd's boot not far from where the car was found, and after a dead body turns up near the Ohio River. It's all about as mysterious and suspenseful as the Hardy Boys' Secret of the Old Mill: a mystery so obvious the dog ends up solving most of it within the first 45 minutes. The rest of the story revolves around rebuilding Marty and Judd's trust issues through a series of vaguely related incidents that don't really hang together as a plot, and there's far too little of Shiloh to satisfy any dog lover who might have wandered into this movie by mistake. Still, parents could do a lot worse: What it lacks in inspiration, Dale Rosenbloom's script makes up for with inspirational messages, and young Dolley is a good enough actor to make Marty somewhat bearable. This saintly do-gooder is so pure of heart he makes Gallant look like a snot-faced punk.
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