When a lonely, ten-year-old preacher's kid teams up with a big, hairy, smiling stray dog, adventure abounds, and so does warmth, friendship, and love. Opal's stuck in a small Southern town with a sad dearth of children her age, thanks to her preacher father's job. The trailer park where they stay rent-free doesn't allow pets, and Dad is usually tucked in his shell, writing sermons. As for Mom, she skipped town when Opal was three, and Opal doesn't know why. So when she finds Winn-Dixie, eponymously after the grocery store where that event took place, it's clear she needs him more than he, her.
Opal and Winn-Dixie grow to be great friends, but Winn-Dixie also teaches Opal how to be a friend, and that adults can be good friends, too. Among those adult friends include a pet shop owner, the librarian, a misunderstood town recluse Opal bonds with over clunker last names, and even Dad, who Opal grows to understand better. Opal is a refreshingly smart, yet innocent, independent, yet respectful, little girl. And the kids in her town are refreshing, too. They play outside, read books, ride bikes, and sit on the porch to eat candy while the librarian tells them a Civil War story. The town even has a converted church (it used to be a convenience store), and Christianity is treated as normal and healthy.
Minor caveats exist. We find out Opal's mother was an alcoholic (nothing is shown onscreen). Two boys call a man "retarded," and other undesirable words, such as "booger-eaters," are tossed around. But other than that, there's nothing objectionable. Pop this one in the DVD player, and bring the dogs and cats. (Birds, fish, and other creatures welcome, too!)