Movie Reviews

Because of Winn Dixie (8/9/2005)

Directed by Wayne Wang (Maid in Manhattan, The Joy Luck Club)

Starring AnnaSophia Robb, Jeff Daniels, Dave Matthews, Cicely Tyson, & Eva Marie Saint

Because of Winn Dixie was the kind of family film that . . . yes, even Dad will enjoy!

I admit. Not all “family” films denote that “the whole family” actually enjoys it. Let’s face it: most men would rather be watching The Rock’s new film than The Lizzie McGuire Movie.

Not so fast.

Don’t confuse Winn Dixie with the proverbial Benji remake. Winn Dixie is much more.

Based on the New York Times bestseller and Newbery Medal winner, Because of Winn Dixie tells the story of a lonely young girl who adopts an orphaned dog she names Winn-Dixie (for the supermarket where she found him). The bond between the girl and her special companion brings together the people in a small Florida town and heals her own relationship with her father, a Baptist minister.

Award winning books don’t always guarantee award winning films either, but Winn Dixie might just pull it off. A seasoned director, (Maid in Manhattan, The Joy Luck Club) an all-star cast, (Jeff Daniels, Dave Matthews, Cicely Tyson, & Eva Marie Saint) including an impressive career-launching performance from 11-year-old Anna Sophia Robb, and a dog that looks like it is actually smiling . . . what more could you ask for?

I brought my 7 year old daughter to the screening thinking, “This will be a good one . . . FOR HER!” But I exited the theatre with a much different outlook. I was truly touched.

Beneath the story of a girl and a dog is a glimpse of our world and all the sadness that comes along with it. But this little girl named Opal sees people differently than most of us do. She cares about people in a genuine way and goes out of her way to touch their lives.

We could learn a lot from Opal. (Note to youthworkers: A great film to watch with your student leaders and discuss afterwards over coffee. Ask how it is that a 10 year-old-girl can impact a community so effectively.)

Winn Dixie is also about dealing with loneliness, sadness and pain. Opal lost her mom when she was three years old. She relates to others who’ve experienced loss and finds a way to bring joy back into the community.

The film could be compared to My Girl or Pay It Forward, but even more innocent. Winn Dixie is powerful storytelling and it has nothing objectionable in it. Nothing! I’m wondering how something so clean earned its PG rating. (I’m guessing it tried to force a “damn” or two to achieve PG, knowing that G doesn’t market well . . . sad as it may be.)

Conversation Starter
Three Simple Questions (with Answers You May Be Looking for):

  1. What are some of the messages or themes you observed in this movie?
  2. How do you suppose we—as serious Christ-followers—should react to this movie?
  3. How can we move from healthy, Bible-based opinions about this movie to actually living out those opinions?


Jonathan McKee

Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Bullying Breakthrough; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers on Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.

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