Ty Burr
January 21, 2000 AT 05:00 AM EST

My Dog Skip

Current Status
In Season
95 minutes
Kevin Bacon, Frankie Muniz, Diane Lane, Luke Wilson
Jay Russell
Warner Bros.
Willie Morris
Drama, Comedy

We gave it a B-

Here’s a passage from the late Willie Morris’ 1995 memoir, My Dog Skip: ”Cruising through the fringes of town, I would spot a group of old men standing around up the road. I would get Skip to prop himself against the steering wheel…while I crouched out of sight under the dashboard…. As we drove by the Blue Front Cafe, I could hear one of the men shout: ‘Look at that ol’ dog drivin’ a car!”’

The dry, humane grace of that scene is exactly what doesn’t make it into director Jay Russell’s big-screen adaptation of My Dog Skip. Instead, we get a serviceable time-passer for kids, grandparents, and poochophiles that feints toward the toughness of To Kill a Mockingbird but stays well within Hallmark-homily territory. As young Willie, Malcolm in the Middle’s Frankie Muniz looks uncomfortable without any irony to latch on to, and a subplot about the black denizens of WWII-era Yazoo, Miss., is dropped before it can threaten to develop an edge. Worst of all, the Jack Russell playing Skip is allowed to mug a la Frasier’s Eddie instead of behaving like an actual canine. Look at that ol’ dog stealin’ a movie! B- — Ty Burr

[BOX] My Dog Skip STARRING Frankie Muniz Kevin Bacon WARNER BROS. RATED PG 95 MINUTES

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