My Dog Skip

Directed by Jay Russell
Starring: Frankie Muniz, Diane Lane, Luke Wilson, Kevin Bacon, Caitlin Wachs.
MPAA Rating: PG for some violent content and mild language.

Review by Matt Heffernan
January 17, 2000

Few themes are more clichéd than a boy and his dog. There are only three ways to make a legitimate film from it: base it on a classic work of fiction (A Dog of Flanders), cleverly disguise it (E.T.), or actually take it from life. The third method is implemented in My Dog Skip, based on the popular memoir by Willie Morris.

Frankie Muniz plays Morris, who turned nine years old in 1942. For his birthday, his mother (Diane Lane) buys him a Jack Russell terrier, despite the protestations of his father (Kevin Bacon). Until then, Willie's only friend was Dink Jenkins (Luke Wilson), his next-door neighbor who was a star athlete in high school. Dink was sent off to war, so Willie met his dog Skip at just the right time.

Even though it was pretty cool having Dink for a friend, Willie soon discovers the fringe benefits of owning a dog. He has some trouble with the local bullies, but Skip helps him fit in with them. Skip manages to get all around town, endearing himself to everybody he meets, and making Willie more popular by association. Best of all, Skip helps Willie get the attention of Rivers Applewhite (Caitlin Wachs), the prettiest girl in his class.

Through every scene of My Dog Skip, the cynical little troll in the back of my head kept saying, "This is so corny! Every little cliché is rearing its ugly head!" For some reason, though, I couldn't help liking it. The story is just so sweet, and Jay Russell's direction fills it with wonder and nostalgia. That troll was really angry when I actually started getting misty during the hackneyed ending. I'm sorry -- I'm only human. The other people in the theatre, primarily the adults, were all blowing their noses when the credits rolled, so I didn't feel too bad.

Perhaps the key to making this work was the performance by Muniz. He may be on the brink of stardom, with this film coming out and starring in "Malcolm in the Middle", a new sitcom which is being heavily promoted by Fox. He would certainly deserve the fame, because he shows great talent before the camera. Of course, the role of Skip also had to be filled by a great talent. For this film, they went to the top Jack Russell in town: Moose, who plays Eddie on "Frasier". Moose only appears at the end as the aging Skip, but his son Enzo plays the part through most of the film.

This winter has been a good one for family films, with Stuart Little and Toy Story 2 doing phenomenal box office. Hopefully, the market will find room for an independent entry.

For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
My Dog Skip (2000)

Here's some merchandise for sale at
My Dog Skip (2000) -- VHS
My Dog Skip (2000) -- DVD
My Dog Skip, a film by Willie Morris -- Paperback
My Dog Skip: Original Soundtrack -- Compact Disc Home
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Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan