Film — Because of Winn-Dixie (PG)

Because of Winn-Dixie (PG)

by Amy Diaz

Words like heart-warming, inspiring, family-friendly and queasy-making come to mind while bathing in the warm milk of human kindness that is Because of Winn-Dixie, a tale of a precocious girl and her lovable dog.

It’s also a movie, by the way, where Dave Matthews appears but doesn’t actually sing. Nor are any of his songs on the soundtrack. Perhaps he’s a little too edgy for this crowd.

After all, the stars of our little modern Southern fairy tale are Opal (AnnaSophia Robb) and her dog Winn-Dixie. Actually, Winn-Dixie isn’t really her dog; she sort of adopted him on the spot when he was found causing havoc in the produce department of the local grocery store. Naming him after the place she found him, Opal takes Winn-Dixie home to the trailer she shares with her Preacher father and the dog becomes the means for Opal to make friends in her small southern town of Naomi, Fla. She meets the old-maid librarian Miss Franny (Eva Marie Saint); the blind supposed-witch Gloria (Cicley Tyson) and the guitar-strumming pet-shop caretaker Otis (Matthews). They teach her lessons about life, people and, I don’t know, goodness. There are minor scraps and small hurdles and — you could say this is a spoiler but I don’t think the outcome is ever really in doubt — everyone lives happily ever after.

Because of Winn-Dixie is a cornbread cupcake, all sweetness and predictable kids-and-dogs-and-grumpy-adults clichés. It isn’t a bad movie and only toward the end does Robb’s Opal start to grate on you with her child-actory-ness.

For the thousands of kids who’ve read the book, the movie is probably a lighter but still entertaining translation. For the parents, well, there’s always the lure of 97 minutes spent in relative peace in a dark, nap-friendly location.

- Amy Diaz

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