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Movie Review

My Dog Skip

MPAA Rating: PG for some violent content and mild language

Reviewed by: Matthew Prins
CONTRIBUTOR

Better than Average
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Family
Genre:
Drama
Length:
1 hr. 35 min.
Year of Release:
2000
USA Release:
_____
Scene from My Dog Skip
Featuring: Kevin Bacon, Diane Lane, Frankie Muniz, Luke Wilson, Daylan Honeycutt
Director: Jay Russell
Producer: John Lee Hancock, Broderick Johnson
Distributor: Warner Bros.

How successful “My Dog Skip” is at pulling on your heartstrings—something the film unabashedly tries to do on a regular basis—depends mainly on your reaction to the canine in the title. Many will find Skip funny, charming, and even—as Esme Hoggett describes a certain pig in Babe—“practically human.” And there, for me, lies the problem. There’s a surprisingly difficult premise to swallow that “My Dog Skip” depends on to have a strong emotional resonance: that Skip is as much human as he is dog.

copyrighted by the distributor
Frankie Muniz and Caitlin Wachs

I wasn’t able to accept that premise, unfortunately, and usually accepting animals as near-human comes naturally to me. I have no problem, for example, considering Babe just as human as the Hoggetts, or considering Flounder as human as Ariel. But those animals can talk, and Skip can only emote through his actions, like serving as matchmaker for his 10-year-old owner Willie and the girl Willie has a crush on, or helping Willie prove his worth in a football game, or teaching Willie life lessons that any young boy in 1942 needs to learn, or just being oh-so-cute.

I think part of the my problem with Skip’s humanity comes from the difference between the fancifulness of Skip’s perceptiveness and the naturalism that the rest of the cast portrays. Frankie Muniz (Malcolm in “Malcolm in the Middle”), particularly good, gives Willie a realistic innocence that becomes tempered with realism after certain events teach him that all is not always right in the world. The film’s biggest name is the ubiquitous Kevin Bacon, who plays Willie’s father in a slightly mannered, but compelling performance. The rest of the cast is made up of unknowns and virtual unknowns (Diane Lane, as Willie’s mother, is the closest to being a star) that by and large behave in a realistic manner.

Scene from My Dog Skip
Frankie Muniz and Skip

And then we have Skip. I won’t get into specifics on what unrealistic actions Skip does that bother me so much (so I don’t ruin the film for those who attend), but it becomes so much that, for a time, I started focusing more on what was happening outside the frame. “Hmmm,” I thought on one early occasion, “How did those trainers get the dog that plays Skip to jump up on the toilet like that?” And those types of thoughts, which occurred numerous times during the film, stopped whatever momentum “My Dog Skip” had going. If the dog had simply acted more like a dog rather than a perceptive human, or if—and I may be chastised for this idea—Skip were just written out of the film all together, “My Dog Skip” probably would have worked for me on its well-told coming-of-age story. But because Skip was such at odds with the rest of the film (for me, at least), and because the score was so emotionally cloying, telegraphing every important scene, I can’t completely recommend “My Dog Skip”.

“My Dog Skip” is meant as a family movie, and possibly offensive content is kept to a minimum. There’s a bit of language (some spoken by kids), and there are at least two scenes of mild violence that might bother children. But at its heart, the film has a message of friendship and caring that few Christians would be at odds with, and I imagine that my slightly negative reaction toward “My Dog Skip” will be uncommon among Christians. So if you’re looking for a film you can take your children to, and unrealistic behaviors by four-legged mammals tend not to bother you, “My Dog Skip” could be a terrific film for you to watch. I just wish I could enjoy it as much as you probably will.


Viewer Comments
I thought this was a HORRIBLE movie! OK, the little boy gets made fun of and what bothered me the most is the dog getting hit! It made my sister cry and we stopped it right when that happened! I mean Come on!!! This is a kid’s movie!!! It was depressing and cruel. I can’t believe anyone could think it was touching or good.
—Rachel, age 14
“nothing really negative, but not much positive either”… How many of you remember “Old Yeller”? Maybe my memory is subject to nostalgic influence, but it was better than this film. This film was OK, but not outstanding. Skip acted more like a dog obeying his trainer than an animal who lived and died for his master. Plus, the movie had some subplots that didn’t get well developed (not clear exactly why the favorite son came home shamed. What about the relationship with the black kid? etc.) From a Christian perspective there is nothing really negative, but not much positive either. I would agree with the commenter who says reality of a 40’s southern town would dictate the introduction of Christian faith of some nature. This is a politically sanitized film designed to offend no one and in the process has lost most of its depth, but would be recommended as an acceptable alternative to most of current drivel out there. My Ratings: [3½/2½]
—Mark Dawson, age 50
“emotional”… I thought that this movie portrayed how a young boy needs friends, and how a dog fullfilled this. It was the same way in my own life—I had a dog for 15 years and just around this Christmas it died. The movie was very emotional for me because I had a dog and loved it the same way—and it dies at an old age. I was bawling, my dad was bawling, my mom was crying. Its emotional factor is higher if you also lost a pet, but most children should be safe watching it. I loved this movie. My Ratings: [3½/4]
—Becky, age 19
“depressing”… I saw this movie based on the reviews that I read here. To be honest, I hated the movie. It was the most depressing thing I ever saw. Father lost his leg in a war, the boy has no friends. The older neighbor is the only one nice to the boy. He goes to war and comes home an alcoholic. Boy gets the dog. Dad takes it away. Boy gets it again. Dog gets hit in the head with shovel. Boy gets taunted by neighborhood boys. Parents watch helplessly. Dog dies. What a bummer. My Ratings: [4/4]
—Tina, age 34
believable… As always I was disappointed that a small amount of foul language was needed in an otherwise warm and fuzzy movie. I don’t quite get the point your reviewer was making, but I must assume that he never had any pets. In all my years and all the hundreds of animals I have been around and owned myself it is not at all out of the ordinary to see an animal try to drink out of the toilet and end up falling in. Animals are not human, but its amazing the close relationship that can be developed between the two and how they can sense the feeling of their owner. Animals can save lives and on and on I could go. My suggestion is to get a pet and live a little. My Ratings: [3/5]
—Dan Billings, age 45
very good… This movie portrays how much love and loyalty are things that should always come first. Being based on a true story I find that this movie is one of the best movies that has ever been produced recently. It brings you to a point that you sit back and realize that every person be it animal or human has a major impact on a growing kids life. If you really put yourself in the way the movie plays out you will actually see the dog just brought out in Willie (Frankie Muniz) who he really was. This movie is a movie that will slow you down so that you can think upon how much has gone by in your life. It was so good I saw it with two of my friends. We all enjoyed it. If you are looking for a movie that has a moral plot for pre-teens, teenagers, college students, and adults then “My Dog Skip” is perfect for anyone who wants to see a movie. (besides being the only morally great movie right now) My Ratings: [4½/5]
—Jonathan Fletcher, age 18
“enjoyable”… I found this movie to ve very enjoyable for my entire family. There was very little objectionable material, especially in light of what is passed off as family material by Hollywood. Unlike the reviewer, I did not find Skip’s actions that far fetched. However, I own a Jack Russell Terrier and have seen many of the same behaviors from my dog. My guess is that the reviewer is not accustomed to this breed and their intelligence. The performance by the dog was not particularly difficult for a Jack Russell. All in all, it was an excellent movie worth adding to your personal library. My Ratings: [4/4½]
—Robert Prock, age 37
a touching story… This is a very light, heart warming and “feel good” movie. A very touching story about a boy and his “best friend” skip. The film does reach out to pull those heart strings. Overly sentimental? Maybe a little, but not much. As far as violence, Skip does get hit with a shovel, but you do not see it, and for parents wanting to know (if you don’t want to know stop reading) Skip turns out OK. It was a sad part, but from an adult view, did not bother me near as much as the death of Mufasa in the cartoon “The Lion King.” I guess it’s all relative. There is one scene that I’m not even sure why it was in the movie. A deer gets shot in the woods by hunters. You hear the shot, then see the deer stumble to the ground, but you do not see him shot. The film shows his wound with blood, but not gory, then you hear another shot (not seen) as they finish killing the deer. Overall, I thought the film more clean cut than a lot of other kid movies I’ve seen. It was very cute. My Ratings: [4/3]
—Jen, age 38
some profanity… …It was a VERY touching movie and did a lot to support loyalty, friendship, how to handle bullies, how to handle heros, who we tend to put up on a peditstal, a boy’s love for his dog, AND, a mother’s love for her son. Here’s a reason for the PG rating. It is our responsibility to heed these warning signs. Although I don’t often agree with the PG-13 Rating, I think we should use what tools we have to be good stewards of what our children see. It’s hard to pick from the CHRISTIAN RATING below, because some things DID offend me, in the movie, such as children using profanity. (What’s the purpose for that?) And, the implied violence of the shovel scene… it was VERY moving, and touched my heart deeply. Prepare the kids, don’t take children under 7 years of age, and be there with them, if they have questions. This is a good movie. It will end up in our home library. My Ratings: [3/5]
—Larry, age 46
has some depth… I went into this movie expecting another “silly” comedy about a dog. Wrong! This movie actually has depth! This is a great movie for older children, teenagers and adults—hence the PG rating. I took my 8 year old daughter and we were both in tears by the end of the movie. It brought back good memories of my first dog, and those times of innocence and wonder that go by so quickly. Go see it.
—Wayne, age 36
a breath of fresh air… What a wonderful “breath of fresh air” in the movie making world! It seems miraculous that this movie made its way all the way from “cut, that’s a wrap” to “now showing at your neighborhood theatre” because nothing blows up, I cannot recall a word of profanity, there is no sexual content or innuendos, and you leave the theatre feeling really good about life. If you loved “Old Yeller” you will really love “My Dog Skip.” Everyone at one time or another has a little “Yazoo, Mississippi” lifestyle in them that we try to hold onto. This is a “must see” movie for EVERYBODY. Unfortunately, it will probably never be heard about during any Academy Awards activity. Walt Disney would be very pleased with this movie, I wish he was still around. My Ratings: [5/5]
—Gregory F. Salvo, age 56
recommended… A movie that definitely makes you nostalgic for times gone by. Billed as a family film, this movie is refreshing for its lack of sex, offensive innuendos, and other commonly incorporated plot devices seen in children’s films such as divorce, death, and other family tragedies that I don’t want my children exposed to. There is one slightly scary scene (scary to younger children) where the main character spends the night in a graveyard (a la Mark Twain/Huck Finn), and one scene where the bad guys (and they are clearly the bad guys) hit Skip with a shovel (you do not see Skip hit, only hear it). But remember the movie is rated PG and geared more toward parents and preteens, not young children. The scenery and way of life in the movie are very beautiful. I recommend this movie as one where you can sit back and relax and just enjoy life in a by-gone era. My Ratings: [4/4]
—Teresa Maynes, age 36