R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr Charles Sturridge
with Jonathan Mason, Hester Odgers, Peter O'Toole, Samantha Morton, John Lynch, Steve Pemberton, Jemma Redgrave, Peter Dinklage, Kelly Macdonald, Edward Fox, Gregor Fisher, Nicholas Lyndhurst
release UK 16.Dec.05,
US 25.Aug.06
05/Ireland 1h39

A boy and his dog: Lassie, Mason and Lynch

o'toole morton lynch

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Lassie This isn't a sequel or remake. It's based on the same 1940 British novel as the 1943 film that spawned 10 movies, plus several radio and TV series. While solidly made, it might be too cute and uncomplicated for 21st century audiences.

In pre-war Yorkshire, Joe (Mason) and his collie (they just call her "lass" or "lassie", meaning girl) are inseparable. Then the local Duke (O'Toole) decides she'll be the perfect mate for his purebred male. And besides, his granddaughter Cilla (Odgers) spots Lassie's spirit. But the dog isn't for sale. Until, that is, Joe's dad (Lynch) loses his job when the coal mine closes. But Lassie wants to be with Joe, and even moving 500 miles to the north of Scotland won't deter her.

Yes, this is an incredible journey of endurance and loyalty. Fortunately, Sturridge writes and directs without any sentimentality--it's a proper adventure about a dog who simply wants to get home (there's no Timmy in sight, and she never needs to rescue him from a well). During her odyssey, she meets lots of stars who obviously wanted to do a movie for their kids: Redgrave is Cilla's absent mum, Fisher (aka Rab C Nesbitt) shows up as a Glasgow dogcatcher, Pemberton is a mean-spirited kennel man (because we must have a villain), Macdonald is a helpful passer-by who finds love as a result of meeting Lassie, Fox is hunting the Loch Ness Monster, Lyndhurst is a thieving thug and Dinklage is a travelling puppeteer (with a travelling accent).

These actors are all in kiddie-movie mode, with smiling eyes and energetic delivery. Even the kids are tenacious and sparky. On the other hand, Morton acts her socks off to add subtext, raw emotion and a true sense of desperation. When she's on the screen, the film feels much more interesting than it actually is. Because it's essentially a simple tale of a boy and his dog, separated by circumstances and distance and never forgetting each other. It's beautifully shot, with comical (but never wacky) touches and surprisingly subdued emotions. A sweet story, lovingly told. And if this kind of thing makes you feel queasy, stay away.

cert PG themes, suspense 28.Nov.05

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Lassie Jez, London: 5/5 "An excellent remake. Unfortunately many fans have decided to boycott the film because Lassie is not played by a descendent of 'Pal' the original Lassie. Does it matter that the dog is not a descendant? No, it does not. The film is excellently directed and will bring tears to the coldest of people. I sincerely recommend it - encourage your family and friends to see it. If you do not go to see the film with a negative attitude, there is a very good chance that you will enjoy it." (18.Dec.05)
2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall