Movie Review: Because of Winn-DixieQuick Plot Summary: A lonely 10-year-old girl in a small town where people have been "lonely" and "burdened" for years, takes on a dog who helps change her, her preacher dad, and the townspeople.
Rating: Possibly Worthwhile
Suggested Ages: 7+
This is a fairly unique "family friendly" movie that generally produces praise from many that watch it. It is an entertaining, charming, "feel good" movie that is childlike without really being too childish. Most people will be able to identify with one or more of the people in this movie since most people have experienced loneliness or rejection at some point in their life. Kids and adults alike can enjoy this movie.
As a Christian, I did have a pretty big issue with this movie, however. And it has little to do with how they portrayed the preacher father (they showed him as a human being with faults like everyone else). My main concern with this movie has more to do with its central message: Basically the message of the movie is that we've all got issues/burdens in our lives and that the way to freedom is just to share those burdens with others and open our hearts to others. Basically a "mutual exchange" - you share your burdens with me, I share mine with you.
While love is to be a trademark of Christianity and certainly part of loving people is to be real with people and "love one another" - and this does involve helping people in love to release their burdens, the problem with this movie is that they are never released to God, but rather people. The girl in the movie talks about a part of her that hurts so bad since she's missing her mama that feels like a "hole" in her of sorts, but the movie never showcases, discusses, or in any way insinuates that Jesus wants to help with that hurt and to fill those holes in her (or anyone else). This movie doesn't provide a message that God wants to help us in our loneliness or hurts - and that that, in fact, is part of what is available to us in Christ. Rather, the message is that we just need to love one another and share with one another. The object becomes humanity rather than God.
For what this movie is: a realization that there are hurting people around us and we all need love and acceptance, and even unconditional love (as expressed in the movie by a dog), it is a pretty good movie. But that's pretty much as far as the movie will take you, and it actually insinuates that our need for love and acceptance can be adequately filled by people, as opposed to a realization that people are flawed and we need a love deeper than mere human love - we need to accept the love of our Creator that loves us with a perfect, everlasting love.
I have heard that the book this is based on comes across more "new agey" than it is portrayed in the movie. That doesn't surprise me because a central theme of people with "new age" type beliefs is that humanity just needs to love people more to solve all its problems. While I do believe love ultimately is the answer, that love is sourced from God and starts with us receiving His love and then out of that, sharing His love with others.
At the end of the day, I do believe this movie can be a decent movie to help "jumpstart" thought and discussion so it could potentially be a good "family night" type of movie, but I would say good follow-up discussion would be warranted - bringing out some of the things I discussed above and using this movie to springboard into talking about how Jesus wants to be our "best friend" - that as Christians we're never truly alone, etc.
Reviewed by Christopher Long,