Because Of Winn-Dixie Movie Review

Subscribe AnnaSophia Robb
Because of Winn-Dixie, the latest effort from director Wayne Wang (The Joy Luck Club, Smoke), is about a special dog who makes a difference in a child's life. It's about small towns and the secrets they hide. It's about 110 minutes of well-meaning, benign unoriginality.

Based on Kate DiCamillo's novel, the movie takes place in sleepy Naomi, FL, population 2,524. Ten-year-old Opal (the precocious AnnaSophia Robb) has moved here with her dad (Jeff Daniels), the town's new preacher. While her father adjusts to a set of challenges -- including preaching in a half-empty convenience store -- Opal has her own: She has no friends and no mother to help cope with her loneliness. Opal's rapport with her father is shaky at best, and it represents the movie's most effective plotline.

Opal's life improves during a trip to the Winn-Dixie supermarket. As she roams the aisles, a dog bolts into the store. When the staff finally catches the mangy mutt, Opal, seeing an opportunity, declares ownership. Though nearly everyone who matters in her life is against the dog, which Opal names Winn-Dixie, she keeps him for the summer.

That summer might be special for Opal -- she meets the kindly old librarian (Eva Marie Saint) and an old woman her playmates deem a witch (Cicely Tyson, borrowing Macy Gray's hair) -- but she lives through a rehash of classic Southern literature and the countless movies spawned by those books. Each friend Opal makes harbors a secret, a long overused theme of Southern literature. Throw in the "dog who changed my life" angle, and Because of Winn-Dixie is My Dog Skip meets To Kill a Mockingbird (young girl's journey of self-discovery), minus their charisma and originality.

Wang apparently thinks nobody has ever seen a movie set in a small Southern town, so he bombards us with shots of darkened country roads, quaint stores, old cars, open fields, and elm trees. Because of Winn-Dixie plays like a highlight reel of country fried clichés, stressing the plot's unoriginality, and showing how desperately Wang wants to conjure a small-town atmosphere. I could see taking advantage of all the scenery if the movie took place in 1955, but it is set in the present day. You mean to tell me there isn't a McDonald's anywhere?

The uneasiness goes beyond atmosphere, as Wang and screenwriter Joan Singleton can't decide on what to offer: a growin'-up drama or a cuddly family comedy featuring a wonderful dog, and their indecision results in a jarring, persistent identity crisis. The amount of dialogue is also a hurdle. Every character has a story to tell, and those tales of sorrow and secrets hobble the movie. Saint's librarian tells one to Opal about the town's old candy factory that besides feeling out of place is drenched with symbolic hogwash that the average 10-year-old could never understand.

Because of Winn-Dixie's popularity -- as of this review's posting it was number 3 at the box office -- confuses me. It's too talky for kids to appreciate, and the material is so overused that most adults will be bored. The lesson: we should never underestimate the power of cute animals, or familiarity.

The DVD includes some commentary from Rabb, a feature-length track from Daniels and producer Trevor Albert, plus a gag reel and a making-of featurette.

Subscribe AnnaSophia Robb


Because Of Winn-Dixie Rating

" Weak "

Rating: PG, 2005


More Annasophia Robb

Khumba Movie Review

When this South African animated adventure embraces its unique setting and characters, it's visually stunning and a lot of fun. But it also tries to...

Fashion Week Front Row: Why The Best Seats Go To The A-Listers

Fashion Week is in full swing, so as per tradition, everyone is looking to the front row at fashion shows as much as the runway....

Khumba Trailer

Khumba is a young zebra who was born missing half of his stripes. Following his birth, there came a deadly drought threatening the survival of...

Jessica Alba And Allison Williams Among Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Glamour

There were some particular glamorous famous faces spotted arriving at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2014 in New York. Among them were 'Sin City' star...


The Way, Way Back Movie Review

An especially strong script gives actors plenty to chew on in this comedy-drama, in which writer-directors Faxon and Rash (The Descendants) take an observant look...

The Way, Way Back Trailer

Duncan is a 14-year-old boy struggling to fit in anywhere and dealing with all the problems that most teenagers are forced to deal with at...

The Carrie Diaires: How AnnaSophia Robb Almost Rejected Carrie Bradshaw Role

The Carrie Diaries continues with second episode 'Lie with Me' on The CW tonight (January 21, 2012) on the back of a mixed response for...

The Carrie Diaries: The Show Might Be A Joke, But The Clothes Are Not

The Carrie Diaries, the Sex and the City prequel, has been widely panned, so it’s understandable that the show’s producers have decided to focus on...