My Dog Skip

on January 14, 2000 by Mike Kerrigan
   Willie Morris wrote about the South, and in particular about his home state Mississippi. He was its first Rhodes scholar. His stories were unabashedly sentimental, especially the ones about his childhood.
   This movie, based on his novella, captures that wonderfully warm and emotional spirit and translates it to the screen with care and feeling. The days are sunny, the people are quirky, the real troubles of the world--like World War II--seem far away. But, because this is told through the eyes of a child, the small things are writ large.
   Our hero is in crisis because his disciplinarian father won't let him keep the puppy his mother bought for a birthday present. Of course, dad relents and Skip joins the family. According to Morris, it was this pet that helped him grow into a young man. It certainly did help the shy, bookish Willie form relationships with both sexes. Skip (brilliantly played by Moose of "Frasier" fame) is a real babe magnet.
   The whole film is beautifully photographed and the musical score matches the lush images. It was obviously a labor of love for the people who made it. It is also funny: On a bet, Willie spends the night in the cemetery, reportedly haunted by a local witch, and runs afoul of bootleggers. And has subtle social commentary: The movies in Yazoo were segregated as indeed was the whole place but the best athlete was a black man who half the town had never heard of.
   "My Dog Skip" is a beautiful movie, but be sure to take a box of Kleenex. The performances are terrific, especially Kevin Bacon ("Stir of Echoes") and Diane Lane ("A Walk on the Moon") as the parents and newcomer Frankie Muiniz as young Willie. Morris himself died last August, just a week after seeing the final print.
   This is a film for everyone but sadly, despite all the clamor for family-friendly movies, they often underperform. This effort really deserves an audience. Perhaps if they just changed the name to "The Yazoo Witch Project." Starring Frankie Muniz, Kevin Bacon and Diane Lane. Directed by Jay Russell. Written by Gail Gilchriest. Produced by Mark Johnson and John Lee Hancock. A Warner Bros. release. Drama. Rated PG for some violent content and mild language. Running time: 94 min
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