Partially recommended. A well-intentioned family film by Walden. Walden’s Holes was mediocre, and this one is a little better. It’s all about a young girl whose preacher father moves them to a small rural town in the South. So it’s all about coming of age and learning to love your neighbor. The little girl, Opal, is befriended by an unclaimed dog on the loose, she names “Winn Dixie” because it was the first thing that popped into her head at the grocery store by the same name. So the dog becomes her best friend and because of its slapstick antics, gets her in trouble and rescues her time and again. It’s got some cute scenes and warm fuzzies all over it. I salute the attempt at good morals in the movie, as Opal becomes an agent of grace in a small town where everyone has something they are hiding and are sad about. This sadness alienates them from each other and turns them into stereotypes in other’s eyes. There’s the grumpy old landlord who hates dogs and doesn’t want Winn Dixie in Opal’s house trailer. There’s a blind black lady that the local kids think is a witch, but she’s just a sweet little old lady. There’s the goofy Barney Fife Deputy in town. There’s the animal shop owner with a dark past, who turns out to be a sensitive musician who was unjustly jailed. And Opal’s father, the preacher who can’t get over his wife leaving them because of her drunkeness. As Opal says, “everybody’s hurting. Gloria says people are alone because they forgot how to share their sadness, but I think it’s because they forgot how to share their joy.” Little Opal is the optimistic person who responds to meanness with grace. To the little boys who taunt her, and the grumpy landlord, she invites both to her party, which stuns them with grace. Very touching moments. When Opal has to face the possible loss of Winn Dixie, who also has a hidden fear of thunder that alienates her as well, she learns that “you cannot hold on to anything that wants to go. You can only love what you got, while you got it.” By the end of the story, little Opal brings all these alienated people together so that they are having a party and praying over the food, thanking God for little Opal. It’s all sweet and nice, and a good values movie for families. But I must say, I had some qualifications on its values. First off, the Barney Fife cop was over the top and not funny because of it. And it was all a tad bit too herd-like to make fun of the authority figure in the town. I’m not against doing so, but only in a bigger context of respect for proper authorities, which this film did not seem to have. So that reinforces an imbalanced disrespect for authority, especially in young people. One scene has the dog chasing a rat in the middle of a church service. Opal tells her dad to keep preaching, while she gets the dog. So the dog runs around after the rat, that they call a “mouse”—since the filmmakers evidently didn’t want to be politically incorrect and call it a rat – and well, the dad keeps preaching. It was utterly unbelievable that he would do so as the dog is upsetting chairs and people and everything. It just stretched the credulity way too far. Particularly, since this was done in a realistic style. Another out of place element was that this realistic story out of the blue adds a fantasy element that DID NOT work for me. Opal gets a hold of some old candy lozenges made years ago and the old lady who gives them to her tells her that the candy maker lost some sons in the war or something so he added sadness to the sweetness of the candies. So Opal proceeds to hand out the candies to all the people in her life, and they proceed to tell her how sad the candy tastes and recount some source of sadness in their life. WAY TOO ON THE NOSE, too contrived. Did not fit the genre they were making. Took me out of the story. Also, there was a tendency in the story towards a humanistic conception of man as basically good. People are just mean because they are hurt, but they are basically good inside. Well, I’m all for the power of grace and forgiveness to change lives, but there was a bit too much attempt to make people appear good when they were not. For instance, the blind black lady was a drunkard in the past and kept her bottles hanging on strings from a tree in her backyard to remind her of her dark past. Cool. But when Opal says in reference to bad behavior in someone, the lady tells her that she’s not bad, it’s just that good people do bad things. Otis, the animal shop keeper tells the story of how he was arrested. How some cops were hassling him and tried to take his guitar and he fought them because of it. He went to jail for his violence. Then he says, “I’m not a bad man, but an unlucky man.” Well, bub, it ain’t unluck that makes you react violently and break the law, no matter how much of a jerk a cop is. So, the point of this is that there is a real shifting of blame away from themselves and an unwillingness to acknowledge one’s evil nature out of which they behave. This is the inherent goodness of man that Secular Humanism preaches. But Jesus said, “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. So then, you will know them by their fruits.” (Matt 7:17-20) Rather than people being good people who do bad things, Jesus said we are bad people who do some good things, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matt 7:11-12) It appears that Because of Winn Dixie gets the second part right, but no the first. And lest we forget the universal dictum in Romans 3:9 “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10 as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one; 11 There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; 12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave, With their tongues they keep deceiving,” “The poison of asps is under their lips”; 14 “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”; 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood, 16 Destruction and misery are in their paths, 17 And the path of peace have they not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Yes, this is the true nature of mankind: evil, not good. But boy how our culture seeks to brainwash against this truth. Opel says people shouldn’t judge the animal store keeper by his past but by how he treats the animals now. Well, okay, we have to be careful to acknowledge that people can change, BUT I got news for you Opal, some serial killers are very kind to their dogs and rabbits while eviscerating human beings, so I would rather judge someone by how they treat people. All in all, though, the movie is a strong step in the right direction of family friendly films.