Reviewed by: Brian Nigro
Starring: Michael Moriarty, Scott Wilson, Blake Heron, Rod Steiger, Ann Dowd, Bonnie Bartlett, J. Madison Wright, Shira Roth, Tori Wright, Montrose Hagins, Amzie Strickland, Rachel Winfree / Director: Dale Rosenbloom / Released by: Zeta Entertainment
Every now and then, there’s a little movie that gets dumped into theatres with no publicity. Usually, it lasts just a few days and then heads straight to video. “Shiloh” is such a movie.
“Shiloh”, based on a children’s book, WANTS to be about a boy (Blake Heron) and his dog. In actuallity, it’s REALLY about morality, animal cruelty, parental discipline, and the School of Hard Knocks. Very suitable for Christian audiences… or is it?
The reason the boy has the dog is because the dog’s owner—a redneck named Judd Travers (Scott Wilson) abuses it and kicks it like a soccer ball. (Parents, please note some of the cruelty is shown on-screen.) The Bible says it’s okay, he reasons, because animals are our property. Imagine the poor kid’s confusion when his dad (Michael Moriarity) defends the abuse as Judd’s own business. Very upsetting for kids, indeed.
The strategy for this movie seems to be that of an old-fashioned Sunday School lesson. What do I mean by “old-fashioned”? The kid’s saving his money to buy a bike. I’m sure there’s a scene on the cutting-room floor where he steals a Bible from the country store and the community smiles on him. (Rod Steiger from “Mars Attacks!” plays the town doctor and grocer.)
Now, for all the criticisms levied against violent, R-rated movies like “Con Air” and “Pulp Fiction”, at least those characters faced accountability for their wrongdoing. What is Judd’s price for animal cruelty--? Writing a ten page book report on Saint Francis of Assissi? If a movie’s going to address morality, then address morality clearly and succinctly. Anything less is irresponsible.
Bottom line: “Shiloh” bites off more than it can chew (no pun intended). There is no profanity and very little violence. The most offensive thing about this PG-rated movie is the animal cruelty. If you miss it in the theatres, watch for it in video.
* This review contains significant editor’s alterations.