If you want to see a grown man pretend he’s not getting choked up, just sit me down in front of a movie about a boy and his dog. If you make the boy a tiny, big eyed British child and the dog a collie, I’m in trouble. Granted as I’ve gotten older I’ve become more and more susceptible to that sort of thing, but when you take into account that my first pet was a collie just like Lassie, what choice do I have?
Lassie follows the Carraclough family who is struggling to survive in a very Charles Dickens 1950s Yorkshire, England. Like most men in town, the father, Sam (John Lynch), spends every day climbing down into the town coal mine. When the mine shuts down, they have no choice but to sell their family pet, Lassie, to a wealthy duke (Peter O’Toole). However every time the duke takes the dog away she escapes and finds her way back home. Lassie isn’t even deterred when the duke moves to his Scotland home, she still escapes to attempt to make the long journey across the gorgeous English countryside.
There’s an unexpectedly strong cast in this film. Personally some part of me is still glad that they are still using descendents of the original Lassie. I believe we are now on the ninth member of the lineage. Eat your hearts out Baldwins. If we’re just talking about humans, you still have a great cast for such a small film. Peter O’Toole, Samantha Morton and Peter Dinklage all take what in other films would have been throw away characters and give them a layer of depth that anyone else probably wouldn’t have gone through the effort for. Performances like these really help make this film go from something that just goes through the motions to really being something that people could enjoy for a long time.
One of the other great things about this film is the lack of sugar coating. In this day where every “kids” movie is just candy coated fluff with some cultural references thrown in so adults don’t get bored, it’s nice to see one where the world is shown for what it is. These people live in a bleak town with a bleak future and they are essentially forced to sell the one good thing they have in order to simply survive. More than that, they could have gone the easy route and made the Duke some Cruella De Vil type character who sits around ringing his hands while hatching evil plots to capture poor little Joe’s dog. Instead, he’s actually not a bad guy. He’s just trying to find a dog for him and his granddaughter to enjoy. It’s a nice touch that most people wouldn’t have even bothered with.
The real downside to this film is that as much as I like it, I’m just not sure how much it would appeal to a kid today. I don’t have any of my own, but I’m afraid that they have been so inundated with cutesy CGI animal films every week that they may not have the attention span for this one. I hope that’s not the case, because Lassie is the kind of movie that I hope to God kids still want to see
- Story: B
- Acting: A
- Visuals: B+
- Originality: B
- Enjoyability: A
- Overall: B+