Based on the children's book by Kate DiCamillo, Because of Winn-Dixie is the story of ten-year-old Opal (AnnaSophia Robb), who, still mystified by her mother's departure seven years earlier, struggles to find her way in a new town. To make life harder, her father (Jeff Daniels), the town preacher, has little concern for his daughter's loneliness.

Opal's luck turns for the better when she picks up a stray dog at the supermarket and convinces her father to keep him. Miraculously, this mangy cur can understand English and empathize with human emotions -- who knew? Ultimately, the dog's friendship with Opal allows her to establish meaningful relationships with people of all ages, and more importantly, fosters a bond between her and her father.

The plot is predictable, likely because its intended audience is a third of my age. But Winn-Dixie has its redeeming qualities. Dave Matthews provides unintentional comic relief as pet store manager Otis. In one scene he walks a goat on a leash; in another, Opal walks into the shop to find him serenading the rowdy animals with his guitar. The crowd mellows, Opal takes two puffs and passes to the cockatoo on her left. And, lest we forget, the guy who drank Jim Carrey's pee in Dumb and Dumber makes his triumphant return to the silver screen as yet another dumbfuck cop. If nothing else, it's a relief knowing that he's avoided being typecasting in his roles.


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