A review of Because of Winn-Dixie, the film directed by Wayne Wang, based on the novel by Kate DiCamillo.
This is a touching portrait of a little girl’s heart. It’s a film I rented and watched, and then felt I had to watch again. And then I felt like I needed my own copy of the DVD, and like I needed to get a copy of the novel, too.
In Because of Winn-Dixie, young AnnaSophia Robb gives a stellar performance as Opal, a 10-year-old girl, daughter of the local preacher, who just moved to a new town, because preachers move. More so even than most kids in a brand new place, Opal is lonely. Not only is she new, but she’s also ostracized because she’s the preacher’s kid.
This is the case until she meets a stray dog that somehow got into the local Winn-Dixie supermarket. In a fit of heroism, she rescues this dog from the pound by claiming he’s her dog. She names him Winn-Dixie, after the supermarket, and he becomes her only and best friend, even though there’s no way she could possibly keep him. But she convinces her father to let her keep the dog until they can find a new home for him.
But that’s not going to happen, partially because of Opal. In the meantime, we learn that Winn-Dixie has an uncanny knack for making friends. A touching transformation occurs in Opal and in everyone she touches, all because of Winn-Dixie.
Released in 2005, Because of Winn-Dixie is apparently intended for older children, but I consider it suitable for all ages, from the very young to the very old. It’s rated PG for thematic elements and brief mild language, but I detected nothing objectionable, and I had no qualms about letting my 7-year-old daughter watch the film.
Being a character-driven story, the quality of the characters are very important, and Because of Winn-Dixie does a fine job. The story features a cast of charming characters in touching and sometimes all-too-realistic conflicts. The character changes that occurred were all convincing, and there were no magical character transformations just to push the plot forward. Bravo!
There was only one weak point: the character of the local policeman. His character was distorted, apparently for cheap comedic effect, like Barney Fife but on heroin. Since this aspect of the character added nothing to the story, and since it contradicted his role as a lawman, it came off as mixing the ridiculous with the sublime.
That last phrase “mixing the ridiculous with the sublime” I got from my father, who was himself a preacher when I was 10. I may have identified more strongly with Opal because of my own experiences as a P.K., as this movie presents an incredibly realistic perspective on thorny issues that preachers and their families face, that we as parishoners don’t usually even realize exist.
Because of Winn-Dixie is available at Amazon.com.