Director: Wayne Wang (2005)
Starring: AnnaSophia Robb, Jeff Daniels, Dave Matthews
Find it: IMDB
D'awwwwwww, it's a cuddly dog movie. Ignore the frankly horrifying poster, it really is a cuddly dog movie. Opal (Robb) is a lonely, friendless young girl living with her preacher father (Daniels) in small town Florida. In the supermarket one day, she meets a mischievous stray dog, casually trashing the place. Opal befriends the dog and names it Winn-Dixie, despite her grumpy father's protestations. With Winn-Dixie by her side, Opal comes to meet and befriend the people of her community, bonding a whole neighborhood and rekindling an almost lost relationship with her dad. It's nearly too sweet.
As child actors go, AnnaSophia Robb is no Dakota Fanning or Haley Joel Osment. Thank Yog-Soggoth. No, she's very bearable and not at all annoying. She's also fairly good in the Biblical horror The Reaping. Jeff Daniels is good as her father, although he's become a dab hand at playing this sort of role lately. He's essentially playing straight man to a dog. Whereas Dave Matthews (of the Dave Matthews band) plays straight man to a whole pet shop.
Because Of Winn-Dixie is a deeper and more mature film than you'd expect from a story about a naughty dog. There are moral messages and people learning to be nice and finding love and other such things you won't find in a diet of nonstop horror. Sometimes it's nice to lighten up and watch a stupid dog movie. And by that, I do not mean Cujo or White Dog. It's a very sugary film, reminiscent of Babe and Charlotte's Web (which I also enjoyed, shut up). It's a more genuine film than Marley And Me. Those with a sweet tooth will find it enjoyable. Those with a sensitivity for such things, to push the dental metaphor, may develop quite a case of toothache. So beware. D'awwwww.