Annasophia Robb, Jeff Daniels, Dave Matthews, Cicely Tyson
20th Century Fox
"Because of Winn-Dixie" was the opening film to Indy's "Heartland Film Festival" in 2004, and was recently released on DVD. If strong, positive films with inspirational messages are your thing then I strongly recommend "Because of Winn-Dixie".
The film is directed by Wayne Wang, who has never been one of my favorite directors due to films such as "Joy Luck Club," "Maid in Manhattan" and "The Center of the World." Yet, Wang combines a solid cast, simply but effective script and a nice, relaxed feel to make a solidly entertaining family film.
As you may recall, I had the chance to meet Jeff Daniels during this year's Heartland Film Festival. Daniels is the star of this film and its one of his finer roles...he plays the Preacher with a unique blend of humility, inspiration and pastoral arrogance. The film also stars the likes of the mesmerizing and always wonderful Cicely Tyson, newcomer and youngster Annasophia Robb, Eva Marie Saint, Elle Fanning and a nice supporting performance by rocker Dave Matthews.
The story centers around a 10-year-old girl who is abandoned by her mother, relocates to a small Florida town with her preacher father and adopts a pooch. Of course, her encounters with the townsfolk comprise the breadth of this film. Yes, I know...it's a simple film and a simple story...yet, it's beautifully told and acted. In a world where action and special effects can often reign supreme, ever so often its nice to see a film come along that warms the heart, inspires hope and creates characters that make you smile. "Because of Winn-Dixie" I smiled a lot.
ADDENDUM: I went to see this film again, and am not surprised that it garnered mixed results from Rotten Tomatoes...I've dropped my grade a touch to a "B" from a B+, however, I continue to highly recommend the film as solid family entertainment. It sort of brings to mind older Disney films in its touch of lightheartedness and appropriateness for the entire family. Critically, it is possible to pick apart this film...but, it works for me because of its heart, family orientation and gentle spirit. While not technically perfect, "Because of Winn-Dixie" is a truly wonderful film for the entire family.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic