Making the Grades
The famous collie is back in a completely new adventure. Fortunately, little has changed. Lassie is still the super dog that is smarter than the average scriptwriter, and is able to wedge his way into the coldest hearts.
In this movie, Lassie is homeless after his owner dies in a traffic accident. He soon finds the Turner family, an average American clan consisting of Dad, a stepmom (his wife died earlier), a rebellious teenager named Matt, and a cute little girl named Jennifer. The father, Steve, is a contractor, and he has decided to move his family back to the country and live in his first wife's home, close to where her father still lives. Yes, his new wife must be a gem, as she agrees to leave her full time banking job to go live with the memories of the prior spouse.
What works in this movie is the character development we see in Matt. Played by Thomas Guiry, Matt realistically evolves into something much better than he was to begin with, and this is mostly due to the influence of Lassie. Some, (okay... many) of the scenes are a bit far fetched (woof!), as Lassie does things like steal Matt's headphones so he will come out and play. Yet somehow, you are able to accept Lassie's special abilities, and put them in context with the story.
What doesn't work in this film are the hillbilly neighbours living next to the Turners. They let their sheep graze anywhere, and they own a house that puts Frank Lloyd Wright to shame. They all wear black hats, and their characters are overdone and unrealistic. In addition, they commit criminal acts that are passed off as being a neighbourly nuisance. It seems that so often, simple law enforcement is overlooked in these stories.
With that exception, the balance of Lassie provides an interesting story that both adults and children will enjoy. For some reason, putting a superhero in a dog costume seems much more acceptable, and a lot less violent.