106 Min. | Comedy – Drama – Family | February 2005
IMDB Rating: 6.4
Director: Wayne Wang
Staring: AnnaSophia Robb, Jeff Daniels, Eva Marie Saint
Because of Winn-Dixie Review: It should be no secret by now that “Because of Winn-Dixie” is a children’s film, its target audience of pre-teens are meant to be entranced by the title character and the many cute animals even if they have not read the book from which the film was adapted. This big budget ($20 Million) film made a lot of money by carefully targeting this audience with a fairy tale story where there are no really “bad” people. Being a children’s film is not a fault or at least should not be a fault. But teenagers and adults should understand going in that “Because of Winn-Dixie” is not on the “family film” level of “Monkey Trouble” or “My Dog Skip”. There is less here for older viewers unless they are willing to let themselves view the film from a child’s eyes.
That said there are some elements for more sophisticated viewers if they just look hard enough. Director of Because of Winn-Dixie, Wayne Wang engages in a fair amount of self-parody. Although 10 year old Opal (the main human character) is played realistically, Dakota Fanning’s little sister Elle’s character is (intentionally) one of the most sugary in film history, appropriately named Sweetie Pie Thomas. John McConnell and Harland Williams play the crybaby grocery store manager and the goofy sheriff with a kind of homage to Barney Fife and Roscoe P. Coltraine. Jeff Daniels gives an excellent performance as Opal’s somewhat distanced father. Daniels plays the character with a nice balance. The father-daughter scenes are very believable and by far the best part of Because of Winn-Dixie. There were many ways that these scenes could have gone wrong but Daniels manages to dodge the traps and give us a conflicted character with whom to connect.
Dave Matthews, Cecily Tyson, and Eva Marie Saint are interesting in supporting roles. Finally there is AnnaSophia Robb (Opal), who like Scout in “To Kill a Mockingbird” provides voice-over narration to help flesh out the storyline. Unlike Sweetie Pie, Robb underplays her character nicely, and is “pleasingly cute” as a Tomboy with great big eyes and a young Jodie Foster/Lindsey Lohen style. This was her first feature but she quickly followed it up with a role in the new “Willy Wonka” movie, the two roles are polar opposites so it appears that Robb has a decent about of versatility. She should have quite a future as an actress. Overall, Because of Winn-Dixie is an excellent film.