Friday, February 12, 2010
By Julia Williams
A few weeks ago I gave you some suggestions for good cat movies to watch, so it’s only fair that I recommend some good dog movies too. I thought selecting a few of my favorites would be far easier than it was for the cat movies. Upon further reflection, I realized there were so many really great dog movies to choose from, it was hard to pick just a handful. But I couldn’t include them all, or this article would stretch into next week! After much wrangling, I whittled my list down to five. Gather the family, pop some corn and curl up with your favorite canine to enjoy one of these delightful dog movies.
My Dog Skip (2000) is a heartwarming coming-of-age tale about the special friendship between a shy boy and his extraordinary canine companion. Young Willie isn’t good at sports, he has trouble making friends and his relationship with his Dad is problematic. Willie’s Mom gives him a dog for his ninth birthday, and his life changes for the better, largely because Skip becomes well loved by everyone and even helps the boy make friends. Set in the 1940s in the small, sleepy town of Yazoo City, Mississippi, My Dog Skip was loosely based on the best-selling memoir by the late Willie Morris, and stars Frankie Muniz, Diane Lane, Luke Wilson and Kevin Bacon.
Trivia: Six different Jack Russell terriers played Skip. One of those was Moose, the dog best known for his role as Eddie on the TV sitcom “Frasier.”
Because of Winn-Dixie (2005) is another “dog changes lonely child’s life” story, only this time it’s a girl. Though not nearly as endearing as My Dog Skip, it’s still a feel-good family film that’s enjoyable to watch, especially for children. Ten-year-old Opal adopts a stray dog and names him after the local supermarket where she found him. The two become constant companions, and the mischievous Winn-Dixie helps Opal make friends and meet all sorts of eccentric characters in their small Florida town. The movie was based on Kate DiCamillo’s children’s book by the same name, and stars Jeff Daniels and Cicely Tyson.
Trivia: Five different Picardy Shepherd dogs played Winn-Dixie. The Picardy Shepherd is a rare breed that’s also known as the Berger Picard.
Best in Show (2000), starring Eugene Levy and Parker Posy, is a hilarious comedy about dog shows that will have you howling with laughter, from the opening scene to the end. It’s presented as a mock-documentary of the obsessive owners (and handlers) of five show dogs—a Norwich Terrier, Weimaraner, Bloodhound, Standard Poodle and Shih Tzu—as they prepare to compete at the Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show in Philadelphia. A film crew interviews the comical characters as they prepare for the trip, arrive at the hotel, and backstage during a national dog show. Best in Show was nominated for a Golden Globe, and in 2006 the movie magazine Premiere voted it one of “The 50 Greatest Comedies Of All Time.”
Trivia: According to the Internet Movie Database (IMDB), filming for the scenes with numerous dogs went remarkably well, with only one unscripted bark. The bloodhound in the movie is named Hubert. Bloodhounds are also known as St. Hubert hounds.
Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993) is a remake of a classic 1963 Disney film which was based on the best-selling novel, The Incredible Journey, by Sheila Burnford. The movie chronicles the epic adventures of two dogs and a cat as they trek across the Sierras on a quest to find their family. Chance (voiced by Michael J. Fox) is an American bulldog pup with energy to spare; Shadow (voiced by Don Ameche) is an old, wise Golden Retriever; Sassy (voiced by Sally Field) is a snooty Himalayan cat who lives up to her name.
Trivia: in the original book, the animals’ names and breeds were all different. It featured a Labrador Retriever (Luath), a Bull Terrier (Bodger), and a Siamese cat (Tao).
Marley and Me (2008) is based on the best-selling autobiographical book by John Grogan, and stars Jennifer Aniston, Owen Wilson and Kathleen Turner. This touching tale presents dog ownership in a true-to-life way that many people can relate to. When a young couple adopts a yellow lab puppy (named after reggae singer Bob Marley), the rambunctious dog wreaks havoc on their household. Despite his naughty nature, Marley becomes an important member of their family.
Trivia: Marley and Me is the second highest-grossing live-action dog movie of all time (movies starring real dogs, not animated films) behind only Scooby Doo released in 2002. There were 22 different dogs that played Marley.
Although this list is by no means inclusive of all the great dog movies available on DVD, it should give you some ideas for what to watch on family movie night.
Read more articles by Julia Williams