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A shy boy is unable to make friends in Yazoo City, Mississippi in 1942, until his parents give him a terrier puppy for his ninth birthday. The dog, which he names Skip, becomes well known and loved throughout the community and enriches the life of the boy, Willie, as he grows into manhood. Based on the best-selling Mississippi memoir by the late Willie Morris. Written by
Director Jay Russell wanted a smooth haired fox terrier to play Skip, the same breed as the original Skip, but he wasn't able to find trained ones. Early in preproduction, he used a dog with no acting experience for a shoot of second unit type footage and quickly found difficulty in doing even basic things, like keeping the dog in the frame. He concluded they needed dogs trained in acting, so similar looking Jack Russell terriers were used (at 07:00 in the director's commentary). See more »
Dink says that Willie's father got a purple heart in the Spanish Civil War, but there were no U.S. military in that war - only volunteers - so no military awards of any kind were made. See more »
Heart-warming, sentimental, and unabashedly honest (true) story that a great many of us can relate to
I've seen "My Dog Skip" twice in my life and those two viewings are separated by an entire decade. The first time I saw it was in the spring of 2000, a little less than a year after I had gotten my dog. Seeing that movie as an eight-year-old really moved me and developed an extreme appreciation for the friend that I had and still have in Copper, that little, spunky tail-wagger. By the end of the movie, I was in tears. Now, having seen the movie again for the first time in ten years, my reaction was the same. Yes, there are a handful of movies that can succeed in bringing tears to my eyes. "Schindler's List" and "Vertigo" are two of them. "My Dog Skip" is another.
This picture could be considered the "Old Yeller" of contemporary times. It's sweet, it's simplistic, its sentimental, and its honest. The true story of Willie Morris, who grew up in the 1940s as a painfully shy boy whose best friend was the local baseball hero who lived next door. When his friend was drafted into World War II, Willie was alone in the world until his mother went against his father's wishes and bought him a terrier for his birthday. That moment was the turning point in Willie Morris's life.
The movie "My Dog Skip" is a beautiful dramatization of an entirely involving story. I don't know if the touch about the moonshiners has any factual basis (or for that matter, if anybody in the audience can identify with that) but every element about the boy and his dog is absolutely heart-breaking. Now I am a sucker for movies like this, but I don't think you have to be a sentimental as me to get involved here. As Richard Roeper so eloquently put it on Ebert & Roeper, "only a heartless curmudgeon - the type of person who would kick a puppy" could not be moved by this. The movie tackles all the important elements of the relationship between a boy and his dog: loyalty, responsibility, love, etc. But it also crosses over into subjects that are seldom explored. Darker moments like what happens when the boy has a few other friends but happy go-lucky Skip really wants to play fetch? It also touches realistically upon (and I can back this up from personal experience) the pains of being alone and tormented by others and how having just one friend - just one friend - can change everything.
What I also adored about the movie was the way the supporting roles were handled. Kevin Bacon and Diane Lane are not only in fine form as the boy's parents, but they are given very naturalistic and humanlike characters to play. The father's initial reluctance to allowing his boy to take on the responsibility of pet - and having some of his fears come true - was a great touch, but the movie does not make the foolish mistake of over-blowing it to the point where we'd dislike the father. We see his concerns and his wise outlook on the world, and watch him as he sort of softens up along the way. And his mother is completely open to any solution that can help their kid along. These are two people who deeply love each other and deeply love their child and want to see the best for him.
Maybe the subplot with the obligatory puppy-kicking curmudgeons (this time moonshiners working in a cemetery) has some factual basis (I've never read Willie Morris's autobiography, so I can't be sure) but it was the least interesting and most mechanical element in the movie and it seemed, until a crucial point, to sort of stop the picture. However, since it is so minor and so dismissible until a certain point, it does not really interfere in the enjoyment of the movie. And again, I must be honest that by the end of the picture (now an adult) I was balling like a little boy. And, still an adult, as soon as it was done, I got out of bed, walked over into the next room where Copper was sleeping and hugged him passionately. The poor dog. He was probably wondering why he had been woken up at one in the morning after several hours of peaceful slumber, but it was sort of necessary at the time.
That's what makes movies like "My Dog Skip" so great. It's not one of those pictures that essentially gets down on its knees and begs you to like it and to be moved. You really have no choice but to be moved. Not unless you never owned a dog or a pet of any kind. Seeing the movie again for the first time in ten years reassured my respect for my own dog and thankfulness that having him as a loyal friend changed the course of my life.
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