A Dog Of Flanders
When young Nello (Jesse James) comes across a Bouvier des Flandres (more popularly known as a Bouvier) that has obviously been beaten, he and his grandfather Jehan (Jack Warden), determine to nurse the dog back to health. It's a huge commitment for the pair, who are barely able to feed themselves in 19th century Belgium. Under their tender care the large dog (called Patrasche) shows his dedication to his new masters by pulling their milk wagon.
While Nello sells milk to scrape out a meager existence, he dreams about being an artist. He has already spent many hours drawing his usual subject and best friend -- the pretty Aloise (Farren Monet and Madyline Sweeten). Providing additional inspiration, his favorite artist, the late Rubens, was a native of the town where Nello lives. While sitting at the foot of his hero's statue at the local church, Nello meets Michel La Grande (Jon Voight), an art instructor who is very impressed when he sees Nello's work.
With La Grande's encouragement, Nello continues to pursue his art over the upcoming years. He also continues to pursue Aloise, despite her well-off father's complaints of his daughter spending time with a poor boy. But rather than improve, Nello's life heads for rock bottom when he is banned from seeing Aloise, falsely accused for burning down her father's barn, and unable to pay overdue rent when his grandfather dies. Alone except for Patrasche, Nello seeks refuge from the cold Belgium winter in the church where he finds the answer to a burning question he has asked over the many years since his mother's death.
This quiet film has a good heart, even with the somewhat stilted performances from the child actors. Beside a few very minor profanities, children may be concerned when we see the dog beaten by its original owner and a scene where a man is accidentally killed in a scuffle.
Never stooping to revengeful tactics, this movie shines with a message of hope and a spiritual conclusion -- an "underdog" that is a rare breed among today's video selections.