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</script></div>{/googleAds}It's hard not to like Because of Winn Dixie. Its kind heart and sweetness of intentions provide the perfect counter programming to most of today's releases that claim to be wholesome family fare but stoop to increasingly lower levels to simply snatch a cheap laugh and collect a quick buck. It's just too bad that Because of Winn Dixie is a bit too bland for its success to live up to its intentions.

Based on Kate DiCamillo's Newbery prize-winning novel of the same name, Because of Winn Dixie is an innocent little coming-of-age story about lonely adolescent India Opal Buloni (Annasophia Robb), who was left behind by her Mom and now lives with her father (Jeff Daniels) who preaches out of a converted convenience store. The two recently moved to a small rural town in Florida where Opal struggles with the fact that she has no friends and there's just not much to do in her newly adopted hometown. Opal even finds it difficult to communicate with her mopey, withdrawn father, who refuses to talk about the woman who abandoned them.

Life couldn't be any more hum-drum until, on an errand to the local Winn Dixie to pick up some macaroni & cheese, white rice and two tomatoes, Opal encounters a shaggy stray wreaking havoc on the supermarket displays. Just before the manager sends the dog to the pound, Opal makes a decision that will act as the catalyst for the remainder of the film. She claims the mutt as her own and takes him home where she'll not only need to convince her father to keep it, but she must also find a way around the "no pets" policy of their trailer park.

Opal soon discovers, as does any pet owner, that dog ownership opens doors to new friendships, acquaintances and a wealth of companions. Friends like: Miss Franny the local librarian (Eva Marie Saint) who has a healthy fear of bears; the mysterious Gloria Dump (Cicely Tyson), whom the local kids identify as a witch; and Otis, a hired hand at Gertrude's Pet Shop, who can soothe almost any animal with his voice and his acoustic guitar. But more importantly, Opal learns that her special bond with the mischievous canine is the key to strengthening her relationship with her distant father.

While Director Wayne Wang and screenwriter Joan Singleton stayed remarkably loyal to DiCamillo's original text, they failed to hit upon a depth of character in any of the town's inhabitants that would have given the film a level of richness that is missing. Save for the aforementioned Gloria Dump, and Mr. Alfred the trailer park landlord, everyone's charm or disposition, whichever the case may be, seems to have been sanitized or toned down a notch. It's clear that with the film's deep South setting, the filmmakers were wanting to ceate a Boo Radley type character with Gloria. But neither is her house as scary nor is the build up to the discovery of who she really is.

With no real villain and only minimal conflict, Because of Winn Dixie plays more like a children's Saturday afternoon special than it does a Southern classic. As the town discovers each other's friendship awakened by a little girl and her dog, the audience is practically lulled to sleep by the film's superficial emotion and its lack of scale. But a couple of things that most assuredly can't be criticized, are the fact that the film has its heart in the right place and the relief that we're not subjected to a barrage of computer generated talking animals.

Component Grades
2 stars
3 Stars
DVD Experience
2.5 stars


DVD Details:

Screen formats: Widescreen 1.85:1; Full Screen 1.33:1

Subtitles: English; Spanish; Closed Captioned

Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround; French: Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; trailer; featurettes; cast and crew interview; cast and crew information.

Side 1- 2.35:1:

Audio Commentary with Anna Sophia Robb - Star


  • Behind the Scenes with Winn Dixie
  • Diamond in the Ruff

Bonus Trailers

  • 1. SANDLOT 2
  • 4. ROBOTS
  • 5. BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE Soundtrack Preview

DVD-Rom Interactive Features:

Side 2 - 1.85:1:

Blooper Reel

Audio commentary with producer Trevor Albert and actor Jeff Daniels

Featurette - Inside Look ICE AGE 2

Number of discs: 1 - Keepcase packaging.