Making the Grades
For Willie Morris (Frankie Muniz), an only child growing up in 1942 Mississippi, liking books more than football and being too small to intimidate school bullies leads to loneliness.
While he dutifully unwraps birthday presents containing bow ties and classic literature from parents and grandparents, what he really wants is a dog. His father Jack (Kevin Bacon), who has become quiet and stern since he lost his leg in a war, has repeatedly rejected his request. Consequently, when Willie's mother Ellen (Diane Lane) appears with a pooch in a package, Willie's surprise is only exceeded by his father's disdain. Though Jack and Ellen disagree, the dog soon to be named Skip, wins in the end.
Skip instantly enjoys a popular reputation around town, even getting a daily feed of bologna at the butcher shop. This is not a bone of contention between master and dog because Skip seems to understand his primary job is to be Willie's friend. Besides, Skip's most impressive trick is his talent for listening.
Skip also acts as a tour guide through the best teaching moments of Willie's life. When he wanders through the part of town designated for the "colored" folk, Willie learns about prejudice ("dogs are colorblind"). When he rolls over and looks cute, he helps Willie to make a friend. When Skip stands up to bullies, he teaches Willie how to win respect. And his example of unconditional love helps Willie accept a fallen hero. But when Skip gets too excited about helping his sports-inept master win his baseball game, and Willie hits him - we all learn the importance of not taking out our frustrations on those we love.
Based on the real-life memoirs of Willie Morris (a former editor of Harpers), this film contains mild profanities and a few scary moments, like a challenge to spend one night in a cemetery, some threatening bootleggers, and a deer killed by hunters. Yet the many little gems included in this script make it an uncommon movie even if Skip is a common name for a dog.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about My Dog Skip.
Willie was often teased and picked on by his peers. Did Willie have to do what these bullies told him to do?
For their own protection, the bootleggers also try to intimidate Willie and Skip. What should a child do if it is an adult that threatens them?