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Because of Winn-Dixie

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
Because of Winn-Dixie Movie Poster Image
A girl and a dog educate a small southern town.
  • PG
  • 2005
  • 85 minutes
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 7+
Based on 27 reviews

Kids say

age 6+
Based on 31 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

The film offers a wonderful look at small-town American life, but its true educational value comes from its insightful look at the people Opal meets -- their vulnerability, individuality, and inherent goodness. Because of the personal stories, the film shows that each person's behavior can be understood, accepted, and often changed for the better.


Positive Messages

Everyone is formed and changed by the experiences of their lives. "Life is sweet and sad all mixed up together and sometimes it's hard to separate them out." It's important to share both your sadness and your joy with others. People should be judged by their "music and their kindness," not by rumors about them or their pasts. You can't hold on to anyone; you have to love what you have. And, finally, the gift of being human allows us to love and accept one another.


Positive Role Models & Representations

Opal is a girl forced to adjust to life without her mother, moving to a new town, and a father still grieving for his wife. Her curiosity, emotional intelligence, and willingness to be an instrument of change present a wonderful example of growing up and adapting. The adults in the movie behave, for the most part, in caring, generous ways. Some have lessons to learn, and with Opal's help, they learn them. Ethnic diversity is present but never remarked upon.


Violence & Scariness

Some pratfalls: People slip and fall in a market as displays crash around them; Winn-Dixie, the dog, chases a mouse, catches it, and lets it go. A bear appears briefly in flashback, threatening, but ultimately harmless. Winn-Dixie is very afraid of thunderstorms; his response frightens Opal. The dog comically assaults a policeman.

Sexy Stuff

"Hell." The kids sometimes call each other names: "retarded, booger-eater."


Oreo Cookies, Fruity Pebbles, e-Bay, Pedigree pet foods, Shell Oil, and, of course, Winn-Dixie markets, for whom the lovable dog is named.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

While there is no alcohol, drug or tobacco use, alcoholism and its consequences are openly discussed.



What parents need to know

Parents need to know that beneath the heartwarming, often funny, story of a young girl's relationship with a lovable mutt, Because of Winn-Dixie deals with some significant life experiences, (abandonment, alcoholism, death of a loved one, and the difficulties that come with major change in a child's life). The issues are treated sensitively and gently, without too much detail. Multiple positive messages are either clearly stated or subtly integrated into the story and character arcs. The few action sequences are either comic (dog pulling down policeman's trousers, falls, chases) or mildly suspenseful (flashback of a bear, the dog catching and releasing a mouse, and the dog fearfully reacting to thunderstorms). There is one use of "hell," and a couple of insults ("booger-eater," "retard"); someone steps in some messy dog poop.


User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byartgrl April 9, 2008
Parent of a 9 year old Written byrobinpeggy April 9, 2008

closer to G than PG

My 6 year old loved this, and my 11 year old liked it (and probably would have admitted to more if he weren't concerned about appearing un-hip). I wept co... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bychargnar February 12, 2012

It's alright

A pretty mediocre animal movie
Kid, 9 years old April 30, 2010

Perfect for animal lovers!

I really really love it because I love dogs. She works hard to keep her dog.

What's the story?

Opal (Annasophia Robb) and her worried, distracted preacher father (Jeff Daniels) have just moved to tiny Naomi, Florida. At the grocery store, Opal meets a troublemaking stray dog causing chaos, claims him as hers, and names him Winn-Dixie after the store. Her dad and the landlord say "No!" But Winn-Dixie wants to stay with Opal and help her make some new friends. Soon, Opal has a job working the pet store and befriends the town librarian (Eva Marie Saint), a reclusive woman (Cecily Tyson), and some local kids. As Opal becomes more confident, she finds the courage to ask the Preacher about her mother. Because of Winn-Dixie, she has developed the maturity to begin to understand the answers. And because of Winn-Dixie, the small town of Naomi becomes once again a place where people know each other's sorrows and reach out to each other.

Is it any good?

While appealing, this story is also heavy-handed and full of clichés, and characters with names like "Sweetie Pie" and "Dunlap Dewberry." Annasophia Robb turns in an uncertain performance as Opal, but strong appearances by top talent in the adult roles and graceful evocation of a gently rural community by director Wayne Wang keep it for the most part more sweet than sugary.

The best moments are not the revelations or the coming-of-age turning points or the dog-causes-trouble slapstick but the small, quiet scenes of people connecting to each other. The film is gently touching when Opal tells the librarian and the recluse that she wants to hear their stories and then listens attentively and when Otis plays his guitar for the animals. Those are the moments that truly convey the magic of Winn-Dixie.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why Winn-Dixie was so important to Opal. They could also discuss the importance of the way Opal listens to the stories Miss Franny and Gloria tell her. If you had to choose ten things to describe each member of the family, what would they be? What do you think of Gloria's way of recognizing her mistakes? Why did Opal worry that it was her fault that her mother left? Why was it important that the candy was sweet and sad? Do the people in your community know each other's sorrows? How do you learn what your one important thing is?

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