Image Courtesy of Amazon.com
Annasophia Robb …… Opal
Jeff Daniels …… Preacher
Cicely Tyson …… Gloria
Dave Matthews …… Otis
Eva Marie Saint …… Miss Franny
Based on the “beloved, best-selling book”, that I’ve never heard of, Because of Winn-Dixie is far and away one of the best family films in years. With strong performances from top to bottom, this surprisingly well put together film is a joy for both young and old, especially those of us who are dog lovers.
When Opal and her preacher father move to a new town, Opal feels isolated and lonely, she doesn’t know any of the children in town and her father has grown increasingly distant year after year since her mother left.
Things start changing when Opal, on a trip to the local grocery story, the Winn-Dixie, finds a dog that is running amok through it knocking over produce and employees alike. To save him from going to the pound she claims the dog is hers and names him Winn-Dixie. This begins a voyage of discovery that helps her make friends and bring some joy to many people in this small community.
Ultimately you know how this will turn out, it’s a family film so it has a happy ending. But the journey to get there is one of the most fun I’ve had in ages. The acting is very solid, nothing spectacular but none of it bad at all. The occasionally hit or miss Jeff Daniels is definitely a hit in this as the distant father. Annasophia Robb is the best child actress I’ve seen in years besides Dakota Fanning, unlike Fanning I think she’ll have a career once she’s older as well. The real revelation is Dave Matthews, yes THAT Dave Matthews, he is absolutely perfect as Otis. I believe he was basically playing himself, but nonetheless his timing and empathy for Opal was perfect, and he had an impressive gift for comedy. I hope we’ll see him now and again in similar supporting roles.
One can’t talk about this movie without talking about the real star. Winn-Dixie. Played by I believe, 4 dogs, this dog captures the heart of the viewer and you really feel as if he is the real driving force bringing this movie together. He shows wonderfully how great a friend a dog can be.
Score: 8 / 10
You have both 1.85:1 Widescreen and Fullscreen versions on either side of this dual-sided disc. Everything looked excellent with a crisp, clear picture throughout. Solid video.
Score: 8 / 10
Depending on your language you get either Dolby 5.1 Surround in English, or just plain old Dolby Surround in Spanish and French. Sound quality is good, but like the video there isn’t anything that really pushes it to the limits.
Score: 6 / 10
Special Features: Full-Length Audio Commentary by Jeff Daniels and Producer Trevor Albert, Scene-Specific Audio Commentary by AnnaSophia Robb, Gag Reel, Behind-the-Scenes Featurette, “Diamond in the Ruff” Dog Training Featurette
Thankfully there weren’t any of those stupid DVD games on this like a lot of kids movies.
Full Length Audio Commentary by Jeff Daniels and Producer Trevor Albert: Fairly solid commentary, I’ve heard both better and worse. Daniels and Albert seems to be comfortable with each other, talking equally about the movie itself, and anecdotal stuff that gets brought up. Entertaining enough to listen to throughout the entire movie.
Scene-Specific Audio Commentary by AnnaSophia Robb: This was an interesting touch, there are a handful of scenes here and she does a good job providing commentary, especially surprising considering her very young age. She seems to really enjoy the movie-making process and it shows in this enthusiastic commentary feature.
Gag Reel: I was under the impression Gag Reels were meant to be funny. This one wasn’t.
Behind-the-Scenes Featurette: Normal behind-the-scenes stuff, nothing particularly new or exciting here. Interesting enough, but you won’t miss anything if you don’t see it.
“Diamond in the Ruff”Dog Training Featurette: Some duplicate footage from the other featurette, not enough actual talk about dog training for my tastes.
Overall pretty solid features for a family film, worth checking out. It’s too bad they split the features up on both sides though, so if you want to watch all of them you’ll have to turn over the DVD and continue.
Score: 7 / 10