Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Because of Winn-Dixie

MPAA Rating: PG-Rating (MPAA) for thematic elements and brief mild language

Reviewed by: Rosemarie Ute Hoffman

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Family Kids Adults Teens
Drama Comedy Family
Year of Release:
Featuring: AnnaSophia Robb, Jeff Daniels, Elle Fanning, Dave Matthews, Cicely Tyson
Director: Wayne Wang
Producer: Trevor Albert, Joan V. Singleton
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
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This film is based on the best-seller by Kate DiCamillo (2001 Newbery Honor winning novel).

“Discover what happens when you go looking for a miracle and a miracle comes looking for you.”

“Because of Winn Dixie” is a charming children’s story with a few surprising adult lessons. Ten-year old India Opal Buloni (pronounced ba-lo-nee) (AnnaSophia Robb), like her new found friend, Winn Dixie—named after a grocery store chain—share names that are unusual. However, their need to be loved was quite normal.

Opal and her father (Jeff Daniels), the preacher, have just moved to Naomi, Florida. He tends to a small flock out of a converted convenience store named Open Arms Baptist Church. While the preacher leads the congregation through the Lord’s Prayer, Opal prays for the need of a new friend and about how much she misses her momma.

The preacher leaves Opal a note on the fridge the next morning with a short grocery list of items to get from the local Winn Dixie. It is there where Opal finds a true friend—big, furry, and stinky—darting through the produce isle leaving a trail of fruit and vegetables behind. After Winn Dixie comes face to face with an unwilling partner, the store manager, Opal who has witnessed this mayhem with a grin and a giggle, claims the pet as her own. Nevertheless, proving ownership to the preacher would be challenging.

Opal runs home to the trailer park with her new friend by her side to announce the good news. There she finds her father at the kitchen table looking intently at old wedding photos of his estranged wife. She abandoned them both when Opal was three years old. It was her inability to cope with being a preacher’s wife—being placed under a microscope by the congregation. This led her to drink and eventually leave her family.

After a quick introduction to Opal’s four-legged friend, the preacher became opposed to the notion of taking him in, but was quickly persuaded to keep him temporarily, until of course, she found his “real” home. After becoming acquainted through a long bath there was an instant bond, and luckily no one ever came forward to claim the dog.

Just as the title of this flick suggests that because of Winn Dixie, Opal meets the most unpopular characters in this small southern town and discovers some insightful life lessons. Their first encounter is with Mr. Alfred the crotchety loner who runs the trailer park. He is adamant about the rules of keeping pets and insists on calling the dog pound.

Next, they meet up with Otis (Dave Matthews) who tends the local pet store. A meek, mild mannered, musical, and magic man who is an ex-convict, recently released from a three-year term. Otis’ punishment was for striking a police officer in the nose after he tried to take his guitar for playing it in public.

Winn Dixie confidently struts towards the library door with Opal in tow and barks. She enters to find Miss Franny (Eva Marie Saint), a librarian and the town spinster who lives life through books. Miss Franny shares a remarkable story about the inventor of the Litmus Lozenges who was motivated by the death of his family, and war. His mixture of sweetness—something the world has lost its appetite for—and a secret ingredient, sadness.

Gloria Dump (Cicely Tyson) is a nearly blind woman of seclusion who is nicknamed the witch. Gloria takes on a nurturing role, and enlightens Opal about how one can see with the heart more clearly then with their eyes. As Opal shares her life story with Gloria, Opal reflects on how she can feel her listening with all her heart, and how good it feels. Opal then finds out that Gloria’s past includes drinking. Gloria has a massive tree in her backyard strung with empty liquor bottles. It serves as a physical reminder of her dark past and as she states, “It keeps the ghosts away. The ghosts of all the things I did bad.”

Winn Dixie though lovable has a disorder. Opal’s father explains he has a pathological fear of thunderstorms. His abnormal and altered state causes him to run out of control. So, Opal and her dad watch and wait on the couch until the storm passes over the trailer park.

Opal is desperate to identify with her mother. She persists in coaxing her father because she is now ten years old, to reveal just ten things about her momma. This starts to weaken his ability to dodge the heart wrenching account. After hearing all but the last one, Opal hangs on to his every word and writes each one down so that she can never forget any of them. The tenth revealed at the end of the movie proves to be her mother’s faulty one—her drinking.

Through her encounters with the locals, the befriending of Winn Dixie, and learning the truth about her mother’s disappearance, Opal finally realizes that the empty space in her heart is now filled.

Our society at times tends to discard those whom they think are less significant, and it is very often some of these people who can best fulfill our destiny. Unfortunately, broken hearts and broken dreams are part of life. Therefore, it is the joy and the sadness that must be separated, or the latter will hinder us in bonding with those who are meant to fill our empty spaces—propelling us forward to our destiny.

Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Violence: None / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: None

  Copyrighted ©
See our interviews with the cast of “Because of Winn-Dixie”—GO

Ten Things I Liked About “Because of Winn-Dixie” (the movie)

  1. presents a relevant story about problems that many people commonly face, yet avoids becoming graphic or disturbing
  2. family-friendly
  3. an intriguing and appealing cast, and a loveable dog
  4. good acting overall and good production values
  5. designed to interest a wide age range, from perhaps 8 to 80 years old
  6. a delightful combination of humor and pathos—laughs and a few tears
  7. promotes reaching out in love, sharing one’s burdens and joys with others, rather than remaining isolated
  8. provides a commendable model for how to deal with loneliness
  9. demonstrates that love and friendship can bridge the generation gap
  10. most audience members will leave the theater feeling good and uplifted, and perhaps challenged to go and do likewise
Paul Taylor, Editor
Christian Spotlight
Viewer Comments
Positive—“Because of Winn-Dixie” is a heartwarming and entertaining family film about what happens when a little girl asks God for friends. With the help of a dog, Winn-Dixie, she changes a small community by choosing to love her isolated neighbors. The film is well-acted, professionally directed, and surprisingly mature. Several Christian themes are dealt with, including loving your neighbor as yourself. Serious themes include the effects of alcoholism and divorce, so parental guidance is recommended for this overall wholesome film.
Jeremy Landes, Christian Spotlight Contributor
Positive—This is definitely the best movie I have seen in a long time. Opal and her dog, Winn Dixie, go around the small Florida town in which they live, brightening the lives of everyone they meet, from a blind old lady, who is rumored to be a witch, but, in reality, is just lonely, to an old librarian, to a pet store owner who was in jail for 2 years, but is reformed. Opal and her dog effectively demonstrate how we as Christians are to live our lives. Opal demonstrates forgiveness towards the landlord who had attempted to maker her get rid of her dog. She did this by inviting him to a party she was holding for all of her friends. This is a timeless movie, and one that provides true escape from everyday problems, if only for 2 hours. I highly recommend this movie to anyone who wants to laugh and feel strong emotion at the same time.
My Ratings: Good/5
Fred, age 24
Positive—I took my 6 year old grandaughter to see this film, it was warm charming and very family oriented. Every troubled adult in the world should see this it will put their life in better perspective.
My Ratings: Excellent!/5
Maria Newcomb, age 50
Positive—Wonderfully sweet movie. Our daughters laughed and my wife did her best to keep from sobbing out-loud! The movie deals with many themes that parents and children can talk about after leaving the theater. Some we discussed were: people have problems that we don’t know about so don’t be quick to judge them until you know what they are dealing with and there is a richness in having a variety of friends from all walks of life and the fears we have (what kid can’t relate to being scared in a loud thunderstorm, just like Winn Dixie?). Finally, the one that loomed large was the idea of “loss.” Opal seeks from her father answers about her mother. Reluctantly, the dad shares with Opal about her mother—the good and the sad. And I like how the movie handled this, because in the end we did not have a picture perfect ending where Mom comes back and everything is neatly wrapped up. Opal then sees the good things in her life, and does not focus on what she doesn’t have. While there is a dog in the movie, it is really India Opal Buloni’s story. As soon as it comes out on DVD, it will be a part of our family film library.
My Ratings: Good/4
Jeff Mc, age 45
Positive—I was very moved by this movie because it was a story about how we look at life’s challenges, and it’s shows the power of love.
My Ratings: Excellent!/5
John Talley, age 41
Positive—“wow” I felt good about taking my two girls (11 and 6) to see this movie. We need more movies like this one.
My Ratings: Good/4½
Mary, age 37
Positive—What a wonderful film. I went with my wife and two boys, aged 11 and 9. The boys really enjoyed it because it was funny and they could relate to loving a dog. My wife and I really enjoyed it because it was heartwarming, funny and it taught some great lessons. Its great to have a choice at the theatre that is good for the whole family. See it together—its a great way to spend a couple hours!
My Ratings: Good/5
Jim Vanden Heuvel, age 38
Positive—We took my granddaughter, age 7-½. I’m still tearing up just thinking about it (and I’m the grand-DAD!). Maybe I’m just maudlin, or sappy, or maybe it’s because my granddaughter has been through an awful lot, but I was sniffling most of the way though the movie, especially when the preacher assured Opal that it wasn’t her fault that her Mom had left them. It was the second movie we’d taken her to lately where an adult underlined that theme. I wish she didn’t need to hear it.

The movie stops about a half inch short of an outright gospel presentation. Instead of that, it addresses a number of heart issues that accompany redemption and demonstrates better than words how the love of God moves through and among His people—flawed, broken, but redeemed.

Yet it’s real. Opal isn’t perfect, her schoolmates act like kids always do, the adults are flawed and frightening and bombastic and neurotic in turn—the only really shallow character is the town policeman, who really is a caricature, and doesn’t figure in the final scenes. (One could make a mild criticism here, that the police should have been presented in a better light in a film aimed at kids.)

I’ll be buying this one. Like the Litmus Lozenges, the movie was sweet, but opened up that deep well of sadness at the pain this world offers, so needlessly, so terribly; how our sins break hearts—often, so sadly, little hearts, hearts forced to grow up too early.

But God answered Opal’s prayer, not in a bolt-out-of-the-blue fashion, but like He usually does—quietly, unexpectedly, almost undiscernibly, stretching and growing Opal and the people around her as well as bringing comfort to her soul.

Sorry, “concise” just isn’t it here. There’s too many good things to say here, too many aspects of the Gospel that shine through the characters in this film. The importance of community, of a loving, gentle attitude towards others, of “seeing with the heart,” of loving your neighbor warts and all, of overcoming prejudices and initial impressions—well like I said, go see it.
My Ratings: Excellent!/4½
Timothy, age 49
Positive—This is one of the best movies I have ever seen. The only part I had trouble with was the portraying of the police officer as your stereotypical moron/jerk cop. I realize this was only done for laughs, but what does it teach our children. As you can guess, I am a police officer. I fight against that stereotype daily. I want children to know that I am there to help them, not give them a hard time. I hate it when parents say “You better behave or that policeman is going to arrest you”. Please don’t use me as your method of controlling your five year old. It teaches them that a police office is someone they should avoidn. This could be very dangerous should they be in a situation when they need help.
My Ratings: Good/5
George, age 42
Positive—This film is one of the best I have ever seen! The night I took my kids to see “Because of Winn-Dixie” was one of those excursions where I just had to get out of the house to distract me from a depressing evening. I assumed this movie would be just another cute dog movie, but WOW, the Lord really ministered to me through the themes of forgiveness, letting go of the past, and not judging others for who they used to be. I was so touched at how positively, yet realistically, the characters dealt with their mistakes, losses, and fates. It really inspired me to know that as long as we rely on the honest fellowship of others, we can be whole even though bad things have and will continue to happen. The quality of the movie is wonderful. The story is realistic and not preachy or mushy. It really lets you understand the world from a child’s perspective which is always refreshing. It also promotes such a healthy way of looking at deep issues of healing and wholeness in such a simple, yet life-changing manner. The only poor quality in the technical production I picked up on was Opal’s imaginary visions (like when she is imagining the bear coming to the library.) However, after I gave this some thought it was done very well in it’s simple videography and imagery because it represented the simple way a child imagines things. It was a picture in Opal’s head and it really appeared that way.
My Ratings: Excellent!/5
Ann, age 32
Positive—I took my family to see this movie after reading the other comments on this page. The movie was almost too long for my six year old, but she enjoyed it. My 15 year old was never once bored, and personally, I was riveted the entire movie. AnnaSophia Robb grabs your heart at the beginning and pulls it to the point of tears throughout the movie. Just as you choking back one of those tears, Winn-Dixie the dog pulls a comical stunt that has you laughing out loud. The girl-dog duo engage in strange relationships that afterwards make you look at some of the people in your life in a new light. It is definitely one of the top movies I have seen in a long time. To be able to safely take the whole family as well makes “Because of Winn-Dixie” a winner.
My Ratings: Good/4]
Randy Baysinger, age 36
Positive—This is a film that you can take a child to and not worry about the content. My five year old was scared by the thunder but then she’s afraid of that at home. I didn’t think Hollyweird was able to put out family friendly movies anymore.
My Ratings: Good/4½
Bob C,, age 41
Neutral—…Unfortunately, the overall moviemaking quality was not the best and the plot was lacking. It had so much potential but just seemed to fall short, and it was hard to maintain interest.

While this was indeed a clean, morally affirmative film, we could definitely not agree that it was “an inch short of a full gospel presentation.” There were a couple of instances in which people claimed to be good persons despite their mistakes (SINS). But the Bible clearly teaches that we are not good people who sometimes do bad things, but we are inheritantly sinful, fallen humans who are in need of a saviour. (SEE--Romans 3:12—They have all turned aside. They have together become unprofitable. There is none who does good, no, not one. Luke 18:18-19 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.”)

We would hesitate to recommend this movie to anyone based on overall movie enjoyment/quality.
My Ratings: Good/2½
Jennifer Paul, age 23
Comments from young people
Positive—This movie was excellent. It focused on friendship and I did not hear any cuss words. There were many funny parts and to my surprise the movie was almost word for word of the book. But there was a character added to put in humor. The dog was very well trained, and the actors were wonderful. It had some Christianity added too. I saw this movie on a field trip, and although it looks childish, it is very good. Everyone I talked to loved it! I can’t wait until it comes out on DVD. This is the best movie of the year!
My Ratings: Better than Average/5
Kyle Parks, age 11
Positive—(I missed a few minutes) This movie is perfect for the whole family! I didn’t find anything offensive, and the storyline was cute and fun. It includes God in a respectful way, which is hard to find in today’s world. I loved it!
My Ratings: Good/5
Katy, age 14
Positive—I am 10 years old and went to see the movie with my Mom. I had read the book before I went to see the movie. The movie was a lot like the book except a few things that weren’t in the book. I thought the movie was funny and I really liked Winn Dixie!! I think it is good for any ages and if you haven’t gone to see it, you should go see it!! One of the best movies I have seen!
My Ratings: Excellent/5
Miriam Rogan, age 10
Positive—I thought the movie very cute, great family movie. I have seen it twice. I will get it when it comes out on DVD. I would recommend it to ages 7 and up. The only thing I didn’t like was the brief language.
My Ratings: Better than Average/5
Tammy Stillwell, age 13
Positive—I saw this movie with my 11 year old sister and Mom and we loved it! You will definitely want to bring a box of tissues, it will make you cry! There are also a number of funny things it too. There were about 5 things we didn’t agree with. I have read the book, and I do have to say the only things that didn’t go along with the book were the objectional parts! There aren’t many movies were you could say that! Over it is going to be a movie I will want to get on DVD!
My Ratings: Good/5
Elizabeth, age 13
Positive—It was a very good movie. It was very funny, and had a good story line. It`s a movie I would like to see again. It`s a very good family movie. If you like dogs, it`s a movie you should see.
My Ratings: Good/4
Josh, age 8
Positive—This was a GREAT movie! I loved it! It seems like a pretty believable story, except for the dog being sooooo smart, and there’s also a lot of light humor. I would recommend this movie to anyone over 9 or so. Simply because some parts need more thought. But, all in all, one of the best movies I’ve seen this year.
My Ratings: Good/4
Sarah, age 14