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A DOG OF FLANDERS is a fine, though unabashedly sentimental, story of triumph over adversity, but children expecting the dog to play a major role may be disappointed. This earlier version of the classic novel is slightly better than the more recent movie. Ladd, as the young hero of the movie, speaks his lines too carefully, but the rest of the cast, including Theodore Bikel, does a convincing job. It moves slowly, imparting lots of information about 19th-century Flanders and the training and work of an artist, but the material is always interesting and well integrated into the story.
An 11-year-old viewer wondered aloud about the title of A Dog of Flanders when so much of the movie is about Nello's determination to become a painter rather than his rescue of the dog. But she was entirely engrossed in the movie and cried -- hard -- when the grandfather died, leaving Nello and his dog alone and hungry. Although it is slow-paced, this is fine family fare, old-fashioned in its sentimentality and fairly educational.