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Review: Lassie

Director Charles Sturridge performs a delicate operation with this latest Lassie movie.

Photo: Roadside Attractions

Director Charles Sturridge performs a delicate operation with this latest Lassie movie, transplanting TV Land’s most famous dog from the rolling plains of the American Midwest to WWII-era United Kingdom, the collie’s original place of origin. Never has Lassie’s proletarian spunk felt so alive, especially in the film’s early scenes, during which a community of housewives, their coal miner husbands, and nine-year-old Joe Carraclough’s (Jonathan Mason) two pooches become complicit in a standoff against a rich man’s fox hunting excursion. That each faction remains oblivious to the other’s involvement in this peasant’s war speaks to the natural-born defenses Sturridge recognizes in the working class, which he mirrors in Lassie’s vigilant attempts to return home—over and over again—after Joe’s parents sell her to The Duke (Peter O’Toole) and his granddaughter Cilla (Hester Odgers). But the film’s surprising grit and breathtaking shows of tenderness—like Lassie licking Joe’s hands after a teacher takes a ruler to them—are compromised by the cartoon villainy of Lassie’s enemies. Equally unacceptable are Sturridge’s narrative shortcuts, which are partly to blame for why the ethos that connects Lassie and the Carraclough clan feels insufficiently dramatized. And though the story appears to reach a redundant dead end at the midway point, when Lassie turns Cupid and causes a raucous in a courthouse while making her way back to Yorkshire from The Duke’s Scottish country estate, Sturridge never loses sight of the dog’s essence, profoundly revealing the depth and intensity of her resilience by setting it against a sweet, often breathtaking backdrop of tradition and myth moving in symbiotic forward-motion.

Cast: Peter O'Toole, Samantha Morton, John Lynch, Steve Pemberton, Jonathan Mason, Hester Odgers, Jemma Redgrave, Peter Dinklage, Gregor Fisher, Edward Fox, Kelly MacDonald, John Standing, Nicholas Lyndhurst, Robert Hardy, Peter Wight Director: Charles Sturridge Screenwriter: Charles Sturridge Distributor: Roadside Attractions, Samuel Goldwyn Films Running Time: 100 min Rating: PG Year: 2005 Buy: Video

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