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|Frankie Muniz||Willie Morris|
|Diane Lane||Ellen Morris|
|Kevin Bacon||Jack Morris|
|Cody Linley||Spit McGee|
|Luke Wilson||Dink Jenkins|
"Every family needs an optimist."
Willie Morris as an adult is looking back on his childhood in the early 1940s and how it was coloured by his dog, a Jack Russell Terrier named Skip (Enzo). In the beginning, Willie (Frankie Muniz) is a lonely child with a gruff, proud father (Kevin Bacon) and a charismatic, talkative mother (Diane Lane), but he is an only child and small for his age with few friends. His one companion is a young man who lives next door, Dink Jenkins (Luke Wilson), who is the local sports hero in Mississippi. However, when Dink is drafted to go to war, Willie's mother decides to buy him a dog, against his father's wishes, in order that he should have some company.Willie and Skip become firm friends very quickly. However, Willie gets bullied at school by Big Boy Wilkinson, Henjie Henick and Spit McGee, until Dink sends him a German helmet and belt from the front line. The other boys demand he play ball in order to win back his belongings. Skip leaps in to help him. That same day, the three boys force Willie to spend the night in a graveyard, where they claim a witch is buried. If he stays there, he gets to join their gang and also keep the ball Dink Jenkins signed for them, and if not, he has to give them his German helmet. Willie stays there for a number of hours, until he hears two moonshiners who are loading crates into a crypt and decides to leave. Skip, however, jumps on the moonshiners until one of them threatens to hit him with a spade. Willie is forced to spend the night at the graveyard, because they tell him not to move and so is accepted into the group.The narrator then goes on to explain various changes in his life. Skip, having always been a friendly dog, is known by everyone in the town, including African Americans, significant because Mississippi was still segregated at the time. Skip leads Willie through the best parts of his life; his boyhood days. Thanks to Skip, Willie now has three friends, and a girlfriend, Rivers.Skip is there for him when Dink gets home, shell-shocked and a drunkard since discharged from the army. However, when Willie’s first ball game comes along, Skip and Willie have their first falling out.Dink promised to come along but does not bother. Since the war he has found competitions don't matter to him anymore, and Willie is so upset by this that his game is ruined. Skip, wanting to cheer him up, runs onto the field and sits wagging his tail, refusing to leave. Becoming frustrated, Willie hits him across the muzzle and he runs away.After the game, Willie is unable to find his dog. Unbeknownst to him, Skip had returned to the crypt, and been accidentally shut in the grave where moonshine alcohol was being stored. Dink, however, after explaining that he had been scarred by having to kill in the war, tells Willie nothing is ever lost for good and goes out to help him find Skip. When they get there, Junior is about to strike Skip with a spade and as Willie runs to save him, there is a thump and a whimper. Dink manages to eject the moonshiners, telling Junior that he'd better hope that Skip lives, but it is uncertain as to whether Skip 'will' survive.As the family and friends gather in solemnity in the vet's waiting room, Willie weeps over his dog’s vet bed, telling him everything he ever should have done; that he will never have a friend like him again. Skip awakens, licking his hands and face.The film concludes with Willie explaining his friendship with Skip, that he had been an only child and Skip an only dog. When Willie leaves to go to Oxford University in the United Kingdom, Skip remains with Willie's parents, sleeping in Willie's old room, and finally dies, being buried under the elm tree. The closing line adds, "That wasn't totally true. For he really laid buried in my heart".
DVD : 2000-07-11