No matter how harsh and
cynical the world gets, even the hardest heart can be melted by the love of
a boy and his dog.
seem a surprise that such a wonderfully old-fashioned and proudly square
film franchise like Lassie would return in the digital age. It
is also a shock that the bedrock values of the story – and a truly
gorgeous dog – still work so well to return an adult to a more innocent and
pure sense of joy and wonder.
The new Lassie is
based on the original novel Lassie Come Home. It has lost a lot
of the ridiculous aspects that have come to plague the character over the
years. Lassie doesn't understand English, nor does her best friend
understand bark. ("Timmy's in the well, girl? Show me where!")
Lassie does not have super powers or a human's intelligence. The film
is even returned to its original home of the United Kingdom after having
been hijacked to small-town America for many years.
returns the series to its roots and the film works because of that.
The film is wonderfully old-fashioned and occasionally shockingly
hard-edged. It takes place in the depressed pre-war Britain of the
1930s. A family made up of Sam, a father who has just lost his job
because the mine has closed (played by John Lynch of Sliding Doors),
and his strong, determined but worried wife Sarah (wonderfully played by
Samatha Morton who has been sadly low-profile since her Academy Award
nominated turns in Sweet and Lowdown  and In America ). Their son Joe (young Jonathan Mason is cute and yet has a
constant pinched sadness to his face) love their family dog.
money is so tight, the father has to take the deal when the richest man in
town offers big money to buy Lassie for his granddaughter (the adorable
Hester Odgers). The Duke is legendary actor Peter
O'Toole, who can still act well enough, but he looks disturbingly embalmed
in this role.
Lassie keeps escaping to go
back home, but when she is driven hundreds of miles away to Northern
Scotland she must make her way over hundreds of miles to find the boy who
loves her. On the way, she meets people good and bad – a friendly
dwarf puppeteer (Peter Dinklage), a bumbling dog catcher (Gregor Fisher), a
sweet bystander (Kelly Macdonald) and a pair of ruthless robbers.
There is even
a cameo by the Loch Ness Monster.
Of course, the only actor
who really matters in Lassie herself (or rather himself, the dog is
portrayed by an ancestor of the original Lassie and as always over the years
a male collie plays the lass.) What is there to say, beyond the fact
that she is spectacularly beautiful and sweet, the dog does a very good job
Lassie is the kind of
old-fashioned family film that doesn't get made too often in the oughties.
That said, there are definitely some
sections of Lassie which would probably be too upsetting for young
children, but otherwise it is an unexpectedly terrific film for all.
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Posted: September 1, 2006.