A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
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.
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
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.
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"Hell." The kids sometimes call each other names: "retarded, booger-eater."
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Products & Purchases
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.
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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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
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.
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Our Editors Recommend
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