Making the Grades
When Opal Buloni (Annasophia Robb) moves to Naomi, Florida with her Baptist minister father (Jeff Daniels), the ten-year-old feels in as much of a slump as the economically depressed small town. Looking around the empty, convenience-store leasehold now serving as a church, she pours out her heart to God. There are only two things she really wants -- to find friends in her new home and to see her estranged Mama once again.
Her plea is divinely addressed in an unexpected way. While shopping for a few food items, Opal is nearly bowled over by a runaway mutt who is wreaking havoc in the produce department. Afraid the animal will be impounded, the softhearted girl claims the pup as her own. Naming him Winn-Dixie, after the grocery store where she found him, Opal takes the stray home to meet The Preacher (the name she calls her father).
Unfortunately, the man-of-the-cloth does not recognize the "horse-sized" dog as an answer to prayer, nor is he enthusiastic about her proposal to take on another family member. After Mr. Alfred (B. J. Hopper), the landlord of the trailer park where they live, threatens to evict them if they don't abide by his "no pets" rule, The Preacher feels like he only has one choice. But he hasn't considered the longings of his lonely child or the contagious charm of the motley canine.
Amongst Winn-Dixie's unique talents is the ability to smile (providing the film with plenty of "ain't that cute" moments), and a nose for finding lost souls. Besides Opal and her father, the pooch sniffs out a spinster librarian (Eva Marie Saint), a blind woman thought to be a witch (Cicely Tyson), and a pet store clerk with a melancholy guitar (Dave Matthews). Dragging his new master along to be introduced, the affectionate hairy beast arranges opportunities for Opal to befriend and be befriended by some of the town's more eccentric residents.
Although this movie is made for children, it contains plenty of thought-provoking wisdom suitable for all ages. Based on an award-winning novel by Kate DiCamillo, the story delves into the bittersweet nature of life, touching on alcohol abuse, the pain of abandonment, the rewards of looking for the best in a person, and the necessity of forgiving one's self as well as others. It is particularly touching in the way it handles Opal's desire to know about her lost mother.
These powerful messages make it easy to overlook the production's few flaws, which include some sentimentality, a couple of mild profanities, terms of deity used as expletives, a police officer portrayed in a ridiculous manner, dog bites and butts to unsuspecting body parts, and a burp or two.
Opal's heavenly entreaty eventually finds its reply, as these forlorn individuals share each other's sorrows, and become part of each other's joy and healing. Perhaps The Preacher says it best when he leads them in a hymn; " I feel better, so much better, since I lay my burden down." And all this... Because of Winn-Dixie.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Because Of Winn Dixie.
How does Gloria Dump encourage Opal to understand the importance of overlooking past mistakes? How does her insight make it easier for the young girl to accept some of the other people in her life?
What unique method does Miss Franny use to help Opal see the sorrow others carry inside? How does this affect the way Opal treats others?