Daily Archives: February 18, 2005

Welcome, Stranger [UNCLE NINO & BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE]

From the Chicago Reader (February 18, 2005). — J.R.

Uncle Nino

** (Worth seeing)

Directed and written by Bob Shallcross

With Joe Mantegna, Pierrino Mascarino, Anne Archer, Trevor Morgan, and Gina Mantegna

Because of Winn-Dixie

** (Worth seeing)

Directed by Wayne Wang

Written by Joan Singleton

With AnnaSophia Robb, Jeff Daniels, Cicely Tyson, Dave Matthews, and Eva Marie Saint

An uninvited guest joins an already stressed household, causing pandemonium and upsetting the neighbors as well. The preoccupied, absentminded father assumes this obstreperous if good-natured invader is visiting only temporarily, but on and on he stays, irritating almost everyone apart from the young daughter. Eventually the interloper wins everyone over and brings them all together.

That’s the familiar plot of not one but two current commercial releases, both wholesome family pictures. The visitor in Uncle Nino, which opened last week, is the title hero (Pierrino Mascarino), an elderly Italian peasant with a minimal knowledge of English who flies to the U.S. to visit the family of his nephew Robert (Joe Mantegna) after his brother, Robert’s father, dies. The visitor in Because of Winn-Dixie, which opens this week, is also the title hero, a stray dog in a small town in southern bayou country that’s taken in by the ten-year-old heroine, Opal (AnnaSophia Robb), the daughter of a Baptist preacher (Jeff Daniels).… Read more »

Because Of Winn-dixie

In a small Florida town, the lonely ten-year-old daughter (AnnaSophia Robb) of a Baptist preacher (Jeff Daniels) adopts an unruly stray dog, which leads her to make friends with a few eccentric and equally lonely adultsa pet store clerk (rock star Dave Matthews), a librarian (Eva Marie Saint), and a reclusive alcoholic (Cicely Tyson). Wayne Wang (Smoke, The Joy Luck Club) directed this 2005 adaptation of Kate DiCamillo’s children’s book with a nice feeling for local color. Limiting the potential overripeness of the material (which periodically suggests Carson McCullers) with tact and sincerity, he generally makes the most of his resourceful cast; only the dog overacts. PG, 106 min. (JR)… Read more »

Sky Blue

In a kind of neocolonial concession to the character typology of the Star Wars movies, this attractively animated dystopian SF from South Korean director-cowriter Moon Sang Kim, set in the year 2142, concentrates mainly on Western characters, with Asians relegated to the slots of wizened elders and comic relief. Also borrowing liberally from Metropolis (Escher-like futurist cityscapes) and the Mad Max trilogy (heavy-metal action), this is generally better with settings than with people, at least in the English version put together by Korean-born Sunmin Park. But that’s partly because effects of space and scale are among the triumphs of the high-definition multilayered animation employed. 87 min. (JR)… Read more »