[Sidebar] The Worcester Phoenix
August 27 - September 3, 1999

[Movie Reviews]

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A Dog of Flanders

Orphaned at birth and living with his poor but loving grandfather, young Nello (played by Jesse James, then Jeremy James Kissner) finds solace in his drawings and, as he pursues his dream of becoming a famous artist, discovers the true power of beauty and love. Sounds like the recipe for a timeless family film -- which this could have been had director Kevin Brodie not crammed it so full of cheese and sap that he squeezed out all the charm. Brodie's version, the fifth telling of this tale based on a book of the same name, tries to echo the days of simpler storytelling but ends up recycling the worst parts of the films of yesteryear. Churches glow when little boys fall asleep in them, action scenes take place in painfully slow motion (yes, voices suddenly go baritone), and the grins are glued on. The talents of Jack Warden and Jon Voight are wasted in the company of kids who haven't yet learned which facial expression goes with which emotion -- not to mention being buried under an unintelligent script. (It's safe to assume the phrase "Hey, cut it out!" was not common in early-19th-century Antwerp.) For patronizing and boring adults and children alike, this dog should be put to sleep.

-- Jumana Farouky
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