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Running Time: PG
Running Time: 95 minutes
Starring: Thomas Guiry, Helen Slater, Jon Tenney, Frederic Forrest and Richard Farnsworth
Written by: Matthew Jacobs and Gary Ross and Elizabeth Anderson
Directed by: Donald Petrie
Retail Price: $24.95
Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Mono 2.0, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection (11 Scenes)
Released: March 12th, 2002
Ah, Lassie. Who remembers Lassie? I'm sure if you're reading this, you probably weren't around when the show originally aired on television (I sure wasn't and I'm saying that based on this site's key demographic information). Sure, Lassie has had her comebacks (mostly thanks to 1970s television movies), but she's an icon of film and early television (the golden years, I'd say) and has worked her way into pop culture quite nicely. A lot of people do recognize Lassie, especially the opening and Lassie's save the day exploits ("OOOOOH LASSIE!"). Anyway, some studio executive thought it would be "cool" to bring Lassie back for the 90s generation, and perhaps a new franchise. A risky idea, yes, since "Lassie" sure was a thing of the past and things have changed. So, in the summer of 1994, "Lassie" was released into theaters and bombed. No one cared and baby boomers sure didn't take notice. Still, despite the film bombing, critical marks were very good.
This updated "Lassie" follows the Turner family moving to the Virginia countryside. On the way there, there's a road accident and a sheepdog escapes the accident. As the Turner family passes the accident along the rode, they notice the lonely collie. The young girl in the family, Jennifer (Brittany Boyd) points her out and calls her "Lassie." (The film plays homage to the original television series right at the start). Of course, father Steve (Jon Tenney) ignores this and they stop at a local eatery. From there, the dog follows them. Steve finally gives in and they keep the dog. They then arrive at their new home... a rustic house but it has its beautiful countryside.
The Turner family isn't doing so well emotionally. Steve's wife died, and the farmhouse is of his first wife. Laura (Helen Slater), his new wife, is a very caring and warm person and doing her best to help the children. But rebel teenager Matt (Thomas Guiry) has trouble accpeting her as his father's wife and feels all alone, not to mention he's insecure (he's pretty nice to his sister, probably because she really hangs on to her after the death of the mother). Meanwhile, Steve is also having trouble finding work. But things slowly change for the better as they get into the routine of things, not to mention the love and warmth Lassie has brought them.
Besides, the internal conflicts in the family, the Garland family, neigbors of the Turners, are causing trouble. The Garland are rich sheepfarmers, and of course, cause troubles for the Turners. But this is just a more of an external stepping stone to create in the plot to add more to it. Despite the family issues, this works rather well too despite if it seems a little forced.
"Lassie" is not a movie for everybody. Obviously some twenty-something year old is going to go check out this movie on their own (well, maybe if they're a diehard "Lassie" fan). But if you have a family with pre-teens and young kids, this is a perfect movie to watch as a whole family on a Saturday night with a big bowl of popcorn. The film is well paced and has good values that will make parents smile by the fact that their kids are getting something out of this film. Yes the emotions are nothing new, the plot is nothing new and it can easily be predicted. Yet it feels somewhat fresh, and does work. Again, even if it has its fair share of stereotypes, it works.
The script is well developed and well written with rather believable plotlines and realistic characters. I'm sure we can all relate to some aspect of the Turner family and their hardships with moving (I know I can), or at least relate in some small way. The trio of writers of Matthew Jacobs, Gary Ross (who has become quite successful in the industry) and Elizabeth Anderson have written a strong family film that has a decent level of appeal and a strong level of warmth.
Experienced filmmaker Daneil Petrie sets the film at a good pace and with a fine touch of heart, not to mention that he has a strong sense of knowing what to put into a family film. The shots of the countryside are wondrous and really pretty to look at. The cast is also quite good, with the likes of Thomas Guiry (who has recently grown from child actor to indie actor), Jon Tenney, Helen Slater and the late Richard Farnsworth. They play their characters just right and are rather strong. And damn, you have to love Lassie herself!
So "Lassie" is an underrated film and didn't get the audience it deserved. But if you have a family and need a good rental or film to share with your children, it's worth looking into.
"Lassie" has been given an anamorphic widescreen transfer in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and it looks pretty good. The shots of the Virgina countryside are really beautiful and looks rather glorious with this transfer. The colors are pretty deep and well saturated. Detail is nice and black levels are rather strong. However, there is some dirt and blemishes, but don't distract too much. The transfer can also be a bit grainy and soft. Overall, a good but uneven transfer.
There's a 5.1 Dolby Digital track in English, but it's not much. There's a good balance in the track as far as music, sound effects and dialogue as they sound clear and don't overcome one another. But the main problem lies within the surround effects. This mix felt too straightforward and not as powerful as I hoped. During the fifth chapter (the storm scene), there are some fine effects with thunder and the rain, but the storm is really heavu, and the track didn't capture it enough. More bass and forceful sounds would have worked to bring me more into the scene. Still, the track has its moments. The musical score from Basil Poledouris sounds pretty nice itself, not to mention some barks from dogs. A French stereo track and English Dolby Surround track is also included, plus English subtitles and English closed captions.
Nothing here. Hmm, a lack of supplements are on Paramount's more family oriented titles these days...
"Lassie" is fine family entertainment (if you check out this DVD, I hope kids won't mind the widescreen). There are no extras, but the presentation is pretty solid. A must own if you collect family titles, but otherwise, a rental for your family will suffice. Too bad this wasn't a bit cheaper...