Plot: What’s it about?
Opal (AnnaSophia Robb) is only ten years old, but he has to deal with some problems that even adults shouldn’t have to cope with. Her mother left when she was only three, so she never really knew her and she lacks any kind mother figure in her life. Preacher (Jeff Daniels) is her father and as his name suggests, he is indeed a man of faith, though that faith is low these days. Since his wife ran off, Preacher has been in a deep depression and spends a lot of time doing nothing, just staring out of the windows. But Opal soon meets a new friend, one that is sure to change her life forever. While at the local Winn-Dixie, she notices a small dog running around inside the store, while people race to catch the animal. The dog knocks over displays and causes a huge mess, but Opal falls in love with the little dog right then. She catches the dog and claims the pooch as her own, naming the canine Winn-Dixie. Now Opal has a friend and companion, but one that is certain to get into trouble and raise some eyebrows around town. Can Opal use her new friend as a start to a happier life and if so, can she also bring her depressed father with her?
After the infamous Janet Jackson incident, mainstream America has taken a turn toward more wholesome entertainment, at least to an extent. A rush of family films has hit theaters over the past couple years, as stars and studios try to cash in on the wholesome trend. A movie like Because of Winn-Dixie would be of little to no interest to me in most instances, but I had to see this one. The reason is director Wayne Wang, who has crafted some great movies in his career. I was curious to see what Wang would be able to do with this type of material, what seemed to be a brisk family oriented production. As it turns out, Because of Winn-Dixie is just another sentimental movie about the bond between child and animal. Wang fails to bring in the depth and complexities I had hoped, which was quite a disappointment. Though to be fair, if you just want a passable family film that is aimed squarely at the younger children, you won’t be let down. I just hoped for a movie more in the vein of My Dog Skip, but that didn’t happen in this case. I’d recommend this as a rental to families as a second or third choice, but a purchase wouldn’t be justified.
Video: How does it look?
Because of Winn-Dixie is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, with a full frame version also included on the disc’s flip side. The print used is very clean, with no serious defects, but there is a tad more grain present than I would like. The nature of the film used causes some grain to be appear, but I expected a cleaner print in that respect. But this never proves to be a huge issue, though some softness is evident throughout. Not a worn kind of softness mind you, more of a dreamy haze, but still, I figured this would have a slick, refined visual presence. Even so, the contrast is smooth and colors have a bright, bold appearance. So not as pristine and slick as I expected, but this is still a more than solid visual presentation.
Audio: How does it sound?
The included Dolby Digital 5.1 track is a good one, but this material is dialogue driven, so there’s not much potential for the mix to shine. Even so, the speakers do open up at times and enhance the experience, though not too often. The dog barks and whines come through in fine form, while the music is rich and sounds terrific here. No flaws to speak of with dialogue either, as vocals are crisp and always easy to understand. This disc also includes French and Spanish language tracks, as well as subtitles in English and Spanish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
A feature length audio commentary is up first, as producer Trevor Albert and star Jeff Daniels discuss the ins and outs of the production. This is a light, enjoyable session, as the two talk about the shoot and share stories about the cast and crew. This is a family film after all, so the stories remain brisk and positive, as they should in this case. A select few scenes also feature audio comments from star AnnaSophia Robb, but as expected, she just talks about her experiences. Not that I dislike that however, as given that she is a child and this is a family movie, there’s not much else we could expect. This disc also includes a couple of brief behind the scenes featurettes, as well as a humorous reel of outtakes.