4.03.2005

Because of Winn-Dixie

“Because of Winn-Dixie” we have yet another mediocre adaptation film on the market. Poor acting, weak dialog, and a plethora of thematic strings knot up a well-written novel that didn’t translate well into a script. A story driven by a mischievous dog and a lonely girl searching for answers and friendship makes a wonderful novel for children, but when translated to the screen depends largely on silly predicaments and tries to lump together the novel’s overwhelming thematic scope into about one and a half hours.

I’m sure it’s big news for Dave Matthews fans that he’s decided to set aside his jam sessions for acting, but after this film I hope he gets an agent that aspires to have him cast in a more interesting role as a villain or one that forces him to stick to what he’s good at: playing music. In “Winn-Dixie”, Dave plays Otis who is a shy pet store worker with a dark and not so interesting past. I’m sure in the novel Otis’ mysterious past is more drawn out, but in the film his past is thrown in like a dash of spices that neither add bite or taste.

To please Dave fans, he does in fact play a little guitar and hum his known chords in standard Dave fashion. It’s cute when he plays for the animals, but it’s sappy when he breaks into a musical dialog much like a “VH1 Storytellers” moment. What Dave really needs to evaluate is if he has physical characteristics and personality that make him distinct enough for the screen, like Steven Tyler’s infamous bass mouth. I don’t think he does.

The little girl Opal is led around town by her dog Winn-Dixie and she meets the librarian, Otis at the pet store, and Gloria the scary blind woman that is suspected to eat kids. She befriends all of these townspeople and each one teaches her something about life. It’s always difficult to compact a novel into a film, especially when the novel contains several themes. The problem is that the film explains its themes through sentimental storylines that withdrew my attention.

Children will love everything about Winn-Dixie including the crazy fiascos caused by the dog and how he actually appears to be smiling. Kids will also love the animals and maybe the storyline about Opal’s runaway mother. Although, I think they may not understand how Winn-Dixie pulls the town together and helps Opal create companionships with other kids because this part of the story isn’t emphasized as much as her obsession with knowing about her mother and her fight to keep Winn-Dixie.

As with most adaptations, the novel is probably better than the movie. You can challenge my opinion and see it in the theatres on February 18th, or see it soon on DVD, as it won’t be in the theatres for long.

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