A boy’s best friend is his dog. We all know that. And 9 year old Willie’s (Frankie Munoz) best friend is Skip, a Jack Russell terrier given to him by his mother on his birthday. Skip sees Willie through a childhood wrought with uncertainties, fears and lots of growing up. It’s a loving touch of a movie; all the niceties are there, but this one lacks a strong themed storyline. What we get are a series of cute vignettes through most of it – all wrapped in a pretty package for family viewing. Nothing wrong with that (mostly) and nothing to offend anyone, unless you still find yourself getting upset by inoffensive scenes of a segregated Mississippi in 1942.
It’s based on former Harper’s editor Willie Morris’ childhood memoir of his life in Yazoo, Mississippi set at the start of World War II. Narration throughout is provided by an older Willie (voiced by Harry Connick Jr.), who provides a sleepy rendition befitting the kind of town Yazoo was. Willie recalls being an inordinately shy, only child raised by a grumpy, stern father (Kevin Bacon as Jack Morris) who lost his leg in the Spanish Civil War and his happier, more evenly tempered mom (Diane Lane as Ellen). His only friend is next door neighbor Dink Jenkins (Luke Wilson – too old for the part), a high school athletic star who’s shipping off to war.
It’s with the loss of Dink, and Willie’s lack of any other friends, that mom decides to get Willie a dog, despite her husband’s objections. It turns out to be the best thing for Willie who eventually comes into his own, joins the human race and goes on to make a name for himself. Skip was the best dog a boy could hope for.
In fact, Skip is the best thing about the movie. Munoz, I must say, is extremely likeable and plays his part well. Bacon and Lane are well suited in their roles as the parents.
Lotta says this is untimately a very sweet movie for the whole family to enjoy. And there’s nothing wrong with that.