A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
Don't trust any critic who writes about "My Dog Skip" without remembering his childhood dog. My dog was named Blackie. He was part cocker, part beagle, and he was my friend. The sweet thing about "My Dog Skip" is the way it understands the friendship between a kid and a dog. Dogs accomplish amazing things in the movies, but the best thing Skip does is look up at his master, eager to find out what they're gonna do next.
The movie is much elaborated from a memoir by Willie Morris, who grew up in Yazoo, on the Mississippi Delta, and went on to become the editor of Harper's magazine. Not everything in the movie actually happened. Its embroideries remind me of Huck Finn's comment about Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer: "He told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth." It is probably not true, for example, that young Willie (Frankie Muniz) volunteered Skip to become an Army para-puppy. Oh, I believe Willie (and Skip) saw a newsreel about the brave dogs in our fighting forces. And I believe that Willie trained Skip to become what the newsreel calls a "Yankee Doodle doggy." What I don't believe is that any kid would send his dog away to war. Let him serve on the home front.
The movie is set in the summer of 1942. Willie is a lonely child. He's no good at sports, he doesn't make friends easily, and he has a standoffish relationship with his dad (Kevin Bacon), who lost a leg in the Spanish Civil War, "and a piece of his heart." Willie's mom (Diane Lane) tries to make her child happy, but look at that birthday party she throws, where all the guests are old folks, and one of them gives him a bow tie. Willie's "older and only friend" is Dink (Luke Wilson), a high school sports star who lives next door and goes off to war before he can teach Willie the secrets of the curve ball.
Mom decides Willie needs a dog. Dad is against it. "He needs a friend," Mom says, snatching the cigar out of Dad's mouth and puffing on it her herself, as a Freudian signal of her takeover. She gives the dog to Willie, and Willie's life is changed forever. With Skip, he runs all over town, and the fields outside town, and other kids want to be his friend because he has a dog.