Combustible Celluloid
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With: Frankie Muniz, Diane Lane, Luke Wilson, Kevin Bacon, Bradley Coryell, Daylan Honeycutt, Cody Linley, Caitlin Wachs, Peter Crombie, Clint Howard, Susan Carol Davis, David Pickens, Lucile Doan Ewing, Nathaniel Lee Jr., Polly Craig, John Stiritz, William Butler, Katherine Shoulders, Joann Blackenship, Jerome Jerald, Jordan Williams, Stuart Greenwell, Harry Connick Jr. (narrator)
Written by: Gail Gilchriest, based on a book by Willie Morris
Directed by: Jay Russell
MPAA Rating: PG for some violent content and mild language
Running Time: 95
Date: 01/08/2000

My Dog Skip (2000)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Puppy Love

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

My Dog Skip is so riddled with live-action Disney movie clich├ęs that I kept waiting for Cruella de Ville to show up and threaten to skin the dog alive. But as the movie wears on it begins to expertly pull at those long-buried heartstrings of dogs and youth. And in its last waning minutes, I warmed up to the movie and got a little lump in my throat.

Picture this. A small boy (Frankie Muniz, from TV's "Malcolm in the Middle") is bookish and scrawny and bullied by bigger kids. He gets a dog for his birthday and the dog gives him confidence to a) stand up to the bullies and b) talk to the prettiest girl in town. Meanwhile, there are dumb bootleggers that make the villains in Home Alone (1990) look like Rhodes Scholars. There's the obligatory scene where the dog runs away for a brief time. And, of course, there's the "will he die?" scene.

My Dog Skip is presented as a comedy by the ads and the poster, which has little Skip looking longingly up at the toilet that he can't quite reach. The TV ads have little kids running around bonking into each other and Skip "driving" a truck. The actual movie is more bittersweet. It's based on a true story and tinged with old memories. And there's a long epilogue that will surely have little kids fidgeting. It has the grown-up boy going away to school and leaving his dog behind.

The question is, do I recommend My Dog Skip for the kids that will go see it? Kids will definitely like this movie. I would have loved it when I was a kid. Or do I recommend it based on its merits as a movie? I can't. This is not a very good movie. Parents will be alternately entertained and insulted. Kids' movies that I would rent without hesitation are those movies that both kids and parents will love: The Wizard of Oz (1939), The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953), Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), The Muppet Movie (1979), E.T. (1982), Babe (1995), Matilda (1996), Babe: Pig in the City (1998), The Iron Giant (1999), and Toy Story 2 (1999). I wish My Dog Skip were in that company, but I'm afraid it's just not. On the other hand, it's certainly a stone's throw better than garbage like A Dog of Flanders or Pokemon. And I suppose that's something.

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