Movie Review: “Because of Winn-Dixie”

   Because of Winn-Dixie is a 2005 family film adapted from the book of the same name by Kate Dicamillo. It was directed by Wayne Wang, other-wise known for various other directing efforts. Maid in Manhattan is his most successful from a box-office perspective.

   The film stars a noteworthy cast of Jeff Daniels, Dave Mathews, and others, but is a theatrical debut for AnnaSophia Robb. Later known for her portrayals as Violet in the Chocolate Factory remake, and for the lead-role of Soul Surfer.

   The film received mixed-responses from critics and slightly-positive reviews from audience-members. The film made more than three times its budget at the box-office and with the way that it is often brought up, there’s reason to believe that DVD sales have been positive.

    The reason that I chose to review this film isn’t because  of an applied interest from myself. I started attending college recently, and in my film class, one of the first movies that we decided to watch for discussion was this movie. I had seen it before when I was younger, but it had definitely been a long time. The teacher has the idea of increasing the subject-matter as the course proceeds and targeted it for the use of its scoring.

   The film follows a 10 year-old girl named India Opal that has just moved to a small-town with her father. Her father is a preacher and her mother left when she is small, something that bothers Opal increasingly. Feeling a little saddened because she doesn’t know anybody, everything begins to change when she finds a scruffy dog wreaking havoc in the Winn-Dixie supermarket. Named after the supermarket she found him at, Winn-Dixie becomes making friends with everyone he comes across, and by result, helping her make friends as well.

    The film’s leading elements are the musical score and the charming performance from AnnaSophia Robb. Anna carried a natural vibe and enthusiasm throughout the film which proves she has a knack for the acting trade. Meanwhile, most of the cast do well in their roles. There is some heavier subject-matter than you’d expect to see from a children’s film, dealing with elements such as alcoholism and abandonment, but it’s dealt in such a way that numbs some of the tension. The score itself definitely induces a feeling a old-time Southern charm, but all the same, even it can be a little excessive. Radiating itself in areas that it has no business being.

    Jeff Daniels shows heart and ambition with his performance, but it can clearly be seen that the rest of the film feels somewhat unwelcoming or unable to muster the same oomph. Some of the themes feel intoxicating, and it’s not because it deals with alcoholism. Instead, it’s because the film seems to follow one sentimental element after the next.

    Because of Winn-Dixie is a children’s film, but by making the decision to carry the themes that it has, it can be tried as an adult. And at any rate, a children’s film is still susceptible as being insulting to youth. I wouldn’t say that there is anything too bad about the characters, except for the Sheriff who offers some corncob dialogue that is too much bad to be summarized in a review. It isn’t the characters that are the problem, but rather the simplified way that problems are solved. The film spends too much time attempting to pull at the heart strings than it should. I feel like every other scene is trying to carry this deep and emotional overtone and it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because rather than it being a real world where a young girl has to react in life, it feels like a young girl’s world where the real world has to react.

    The film carries more serious undertones than what might be expected, but at the same time, it tackles them with a smiling-dog and only does them the minimum of justice. Even still, above all of that, Because of Winn-Dixie is shot well. The dreary atmosphere glorified by strong cinematography and direction. The musical and everything else, and even some of the scenes themselves help to bring a feeling of childlike wonder that shouldn’t be brushed under the rug.

   In conclusion, Because of Winn-Dixie isn’t a very good film. Good ideas are in there, it’s well-shot, and it has a capable cast, but an excess feeling of sentiment and blandness makes the themes nothing innovative or worthwhile.

    Thanks for reading…

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