My Dog Skip [2000]

This boy-and-his-dog movie, a nonpareil family film, is, as one of the characters so aptly puts it, "a heartbreak waiting to happen." Frankie Muniz, winning over audiences in the TV series Malcolm in the Middle, has competition in My Dog Skip--Skip himself (adorably played by a total of six Jack Russell terriers). Muniz, an inveterate charmer, stars as Willie Morris (from whose memoir the film is adapted), a gawky, awkward boy growing up during World War II under an overly protective father (Kevin Bacon). When his mom (Diane Lane) gives him Skip on his 9th birthday, his life is changed in every way for the better. Previously disinterested peers become pals, and he experiences puppy love with a girl named Rivers (Caitlin Wachs). There are plenty of high jinks and rah-rah touches of Americana, and the film also attempts to deal with sophisticated emotions--Willie's boyhood hero turns out to be less than heroic--but its devastating emotional core comes, simply and obviously, with Skip's eventual aging and demise. Dog lovers will be wiped out; those who don't care for canines shouldn't even be bothering to read this review. (Ages 8 and older) --David Kronke

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Dink:
You bawling like a big baby 'cause you lost that ball game?

Willie Morris:
What do you know about it? You didn't come you big liar. Leave me alone.

Dink:
That's how it is, isn't it? You're a hero today, and then you're a goat tomorrow. Now I didn't come because games don't mean nothing to me anymore.

Willie Morris:
It's not the game. It's Skip. He's gone for good.

Dink:
For good? Now how do you know that? You some kind of fortune teller?

Willie Morris:
I got mad at him and I hit him. And he ran away. Just like you ran away. Skip was never afraid of nothing.

Dink:
You think I don't know what folks are saying? That old Dink's a coward? Huh? Well I know. And you know what? They're right. I got scared. And I ran. You think it was 'cause I was afraid of dying? Because I wished I was dead plenty of times.

Willie Morris:
Then what was it?

Dink:
It ain't the dying that scary, boy. It's the killing. Now look, that dog ain't lost. You just need to know where to find him. There's gotta be at least one place around here that you hadn't thought of to look at, right?

Jack Morris:
Sometimes he gets mad and says things he doesn't mean. He gets it from his mother. When I got back from Spain, I got into accounting. I figured I could hide behind a desk. I looked down, and I didn't so much as look up for a whole year. When I finally did, people weren't staring at me anymore. I guess they kind of forgot about it.

Dink:
Well, Mr. Morris. You got a purple heart. I got a yellow stripe. You can trust me. They don't forget about cowards.

Jack Morris:
Well, folks like to keep things small, Dink. Fit you into one pocket or the other. Give a man a label, and you never really need to get to know him. My son, he looks up to you, Dink. Not because you can run or throw a ball. You're his hero because you're his friend. And that's what he needs. A friend.

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