Because of Winn-Dixie is bar none one of the best films I have ever seen. I wasn’t expecting much and I truthfully let this movie pass me by when it was in the theater, but I knew that something was up when my mother told me to go see it. Not that she doesn’t like her fair share of dog movies (no pun intended), but she seemed pretty intent on making it known to me that she felt that this was a movie that I would enjoy. I blew off her overtures figuring that it was her being a fan of Dave Matthews (who appears in this film), that was behind her reasons for telling me to screen this film.
So imagine my surprise and joy when I watched this film and realized that it was very much one of those “summer-type” films that I enjoyed so much in my youth. While not a groundbreaking film by any stretch of the imagination, this tale of a young girl named Opal who moves to a new town with her preacher father was very unique. Sure enough, this movie starts off with Opal not having any friends, but once the dog Winn-Dixie comes into her life all this changes. While this movie has a storybook or almost fairy tale quality, the acting is so good, the direction so well realized that I couldn’t help but be won over by Because of Winn-Dixie.
In a day and age when it seems like every film is being “supersized”, it’s nice to see a film that happily resides in warm state of smallness.
One can listen to these tracks with actor Jeff Daniels and Producer Trevor Albert or they can opt for the scene specific commentary with AnnaSophia Robb. Truthfully, I dabbled a little into both of these and they were basically what I expected they would be. We get to hear Daniels and the Producer give a more logistical and technical spin on the movie, but they bring a sarcastic, wry sense of humor to a lot of this as well. For a DVD that is obviously geared towards kids, this commentary track is something adults will appreciate. As for the commentary with AnnaSophia Robb, there is nothing better then hearing a child's take on a multimillion dollar movie.
Behind the Scenes Featurette and Gag Reel
These two pieces are pretty short in length but they give an overall feel for how the making of this movie was. While not overly in-depth, I think a film like this really shows that if you have solid source material, a good cast and a director like Wayne Wang who isn’t just going to try and hit on all the easy moments, then you can be quite successful in creating a pretty solid movie. The gag reel was interesting and I liked that it focused on the dog playing Winn-Dixie, I just wish that it had been a tad longer.
”Diamond in the Ruff” - Dog Training Featurette
Another pretty bare bones featurette in which we see what went into getting the dog to behave like an actor. They used two different dogs which to me seems like it could have been a nightmare (I mean, no two animals look exactly alike), but I never noticed any
discrepancies with the dogs. I just can’t imagine how it works out when you are making movie like this, there are thousands of dollars being spent every minute and you have to deal with a dog that doesn’t want to cooperate and furthermore, has no idea that it is wasting a ton of money.
This movie can be screened in Widescreen 1.85:1 or Full Screen 1.33:1. The look of this film, while not anything that we haven’t seen before, really captures the feeling of youth. It lets the camera rest and captures those moments of growth, as new days give way to old and relationships are formed and explored. As I said, there aren’t crazy camera angles and this isn’t shot in such a way that it is going to garner anyone an Academy Award, but for the most part this movie captures the bookish feel of of the novel. Now, I have not read the novel, but this movie seems like a book. It is very literal, very deliberate and tells the story in a classic style while also introducing new ideas and themes. I love that it never really dotes on one area for too long, but rather seems to be most strong when it is just letting itself be guided by the story.
Dolby Digital. English 5.1 Dolby Surround. Spanish and French Dolby Surround. Because of Winn-Dixie is subtitled in English and Spanish. Again, there is nothing really outrageous about the sound, but it all seems to play hand in hand with the overall look and feel of this movie. Truthfully, I don’t think you can expect the sound in a film like this to really take any chances. After all, it is a family film and it’s not like we need to use the audio to create this amazing subtext to the character. At the end of the day, if the music swells in the right places, and as long as it doesn’t tell us how to feel too much, I think everything comes across pretty much how it should. While not anything too spectacular, it certainly doesn’t detract from this movie either.
Who can look at this packaging and not immediately fall in love with the dog from the title? Add to this some little kids in the background and I think you have a film that is going to appeal to a large DVD audience. Add to this that this movie is based on a best-selling book, and Because of Winn-Dixie seems like a film where the producers got pretty much everything right. The back features some shots from the movie, a tiny description of what the film is about, a special features listing, a cast list and a technical specs sheet. Overall, the fields and trees that are predominant on the packaging give this DVD a very warm quality, that does nothing but enhance it’s bookish feel.
I have been upset with director Wayne Wang ever since I realized that he did Maid In Manhattan. Having been a fan of his after screening Chan is Missing, and reading about him in the film books by Rick Schmidt, I guess I saw him as a sell out. I realize now that I was wrong. I am not saying that I am going to rush out and see Maid In Manhattan, but if his film work leads him to make movies like Because of Winn-Dixie, then I really have no complaints. Look, as much as people speak of wanting to make “independent movies”, nobody wants to spend years on a project and then have nobody see it.
His direction is so self-assured in Because of Winn-Dixie, that you really see how he made his bones from the his early indies to the films he is currently helming. While I am not saying I am going to love every film he does, I am considering, reconsidering my thoughts about Maid In Manhattan.
I think Because of Winn-Dixie is one of those rare, special films that can have a place in any respectable DVD collectors collection.
Because of Winn-Dixie was released February 18, 2005.