In this film based on the Newbery Award-winning children's book by Kate DiCamillo Opal (AnnaSophia Robb) is a lonely 10-year-old girl who has moved to a sluggish small town in Florida with her preacher father (Jeff Daniels). She has a tough time getting through to her dad: when he is not preaching the gospel he walks around in a haze haunted by the departure of Opal's mother many years before. But when Opal adopts Winn-Dixie named after the supermarket where she found the mutt things start to brighten up for the little girl. With her special companion by her side Opal ends up meeting some pretty interesting people in the town. They include Miss Franny (Eva Marie Saint) the local spinster librarian who spins great stories; Otis (Dave Matthews) the shy drifter working at Gertrude's Pet Shop; and Gloria (Cicely Tyson) an old blind lady living with ghosts from her past. Through Opal's sunny disposition and Winn-Dixie doggone tenaciousness they help the town find their joy and their sorrow. And at the same time they mend Opal's troubled relationship with her father. Collectively now awwww!
All the players fit snugly in this warmhearted movie especially the talented young Robb who makes her feature film debut in Winn-Dixie. It's imperative to cast an adorable child and Robb doesn't disappoint keeping things genuinely fresh with the big eyes infectious smile and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm charm. Daniels too doesn't overplay it as the wounded preacher--aptly described by Opal as a turtle--who rarely sticks his head out of his shell. Veterans Eva Marie Saint and Cicely Tyson do what they can with their stereotypical parts as the kindly spinster storyteller and kindly old wise woman respectively. But it's singer-turned-actor Dave Matthews who stands out as the drifter with a troubled past but can "sing most anything " even charming the animals in the pet shop á la the Pied Piper. His poignant performance is up there in the sentiment department.
Here we go with the children and the animals again. Wayne Wang (Maid in Manhattan The Joy Luck Club) is the latest director to take a stab at guiding those most unpredictable of actors. As he explains "Sometimes the going is slow. But then suddenly something magical happens that you couldn't possibly have planned or anticipated." It's true. There are definite moments of inspired sweetness especially between Opal and Winn-Dixie played by a Picardy Shepherd a rare breed of dog from France that has the look of a big old lovable mutt. And of course you can't go too wrong using heart-tugging material based on a beloved children's novel on par with Where the Red Fern Grows and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. That's also Because of Winn-Dixie main problem. Fans of the book will certainly love the film but overall it doesn't really offer anything new in this genre. It's the same general premise about the kid and a dog--or a horse a deer whichever animal works best--who can change the lives of those around them just from being pure of heart. Maybe it's the curmudgeon in me but Winn-Dixie just doesn't stand out among the plethora of films similar to it.
August 03, 2003 11:12am EST
Moviegoers preferred watching the blessed union between American Pie's Jim and Michelle over peeping at the pic that launched Ben and Jen's real life romance. American Wedding's $34.2 million* take proved to be the icing on top of the box office this weekend, easily landing the comedy at No. 1.
Even though this third installment in the American Pie series wasn't sweet enough to beat 2001's American Pie 2 debut of $45.1 million, American Wedding did better than the first film, which opened to $18.7 million in 1999, and its sugary take certainly gave the competition a toothache. It limited last week's box office champ, Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, to a $20.1 million take and second place, and it sent Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and its $19.1 million booty sailing to third position.
Seabiscuit, meanwhile, wasn't horsing around. The racehorse biopic gained a spot in its second week, crossing the finish line in fourth place with $17.4 million, followed by the buddy actioner Bad Boys II, which rounded out the Top Five with $12.7 million.
But poor Gigli (rhymes with really, not wiggly) proved to be both a critical and commercial flop. The unilaterally panned film--starring Hollywood's most talked about couple, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez--failed to ignite a spark at the box office; the romantic thriller debuted to a disappointing $3.8 million and tied for seventh place with Finding Nemo, now in its tenth week.
THE TOP TEN
Universal Picture's R rated comedy American Wedding opened at the top of the box office this weekend with an ESTIMATED $34.2 at 3,172 theaters. Its $10,800 per theater average was the highest film of any film playing this week.
In this third installment of the American Pie series, Jim and Michelle and the gang are ready to wreak havoc with a new rite of passage: marriage.
Directed by Jesse Dylan, it stars Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott, Alyson Hannigan, Eddie Kaye Thomas and Thomas Ian Nicholas.
Dimension Films' PG rated Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, last week's box office champ, followed in second place in its second week with an ESTIMATED $20.1 million in 3,364 theaters (+20 theaters; $5,975 per theater). Its cume is approximately $69 million.
Written and directed by Robert Rodriguez, it stars Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, Sylvester Stallone, Salma Hayek and Ricardo Montalban.
Buena Vista Pictures' PG 13 rated fantasy actioner Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl continued its hold on the box office, although it dropped a notch to third place in its fourth week of release with an ESTIMATED $19.1 million (-17%) at 3,390 theaters (-26 theaters; $5,634 per theater). Its cume is approximately $208.8 million.
Directed by Gore Verbinski and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, it stars Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley.
Universal Pictures' PG-13 rated drama Seabiscuit gained a spot in its second week after a slight expansion, taking in an ESTIMATED $19.1 million (-16%) in 2,421 theaters (+434 theaters; $7,215 per theater). Its cume is approximately $49 million.
Directed by Gary Ross, it stars Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges and Chris Cooper.
Sony Picture's R rated buddy actioner Bad Boys II fell two notches to fifth place in its third week with an ESTIMATED $12.7 million (-42%) at 3,022 theaters (-180 theaters; $4,203 per theater). Its cume is approximately $111.3 million.
Directed by Michael Bay, it stars Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Jordi Molla, Gabrielle Union and Peter Stormare.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
Paramount Pictures' PG-13 rated action-packed Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life dropped two rungs to sixth place in its second week with an ESTIMATED $11.3 million (-48 %) in 3,222 theaters (unchanged, $3,507 per theater). Its cume is approximately $42.5 million.
Directed by Jan De Bont, it stars Angelina Jolie, Gerald Butler, Chris Barrie, Ciaran Hinds and Noah Taylor.
Buena Vista/Disney and Pixar Animation Studios' G rated computer-animated feature Finding Nemo gained a position in its tenth week to come in at No. 7 with an ESTIMATED $3.8 million (-13%) at 1,777 theaters (-248 theaters; $2,138 per theater). Its cume is approximately $319.9 million.
Directed and co-written by Pixar veteran Andrew Stanton, it features the voices of Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, Willem Dafoe and Brad Garrett.
Sony Pictures' R rated crime romance Gigli tied for seventh place and opened with an ESTIMATED $3.8 million at 2,215 theaters ($1,716 per theater).
In the film, lowly hit man Larry Gigli is hired to kidnap the mentally handicapped little brother of a federal prosecutor for Mob purposes. But sparks fly when the gorgeous, independent-minded Ricki is also put on the case because Gigli can't be trusted to do the job.
Directed by Martin Brest, it stars Ben Affleck, Jennifer Lopez and Justin Bartha.
Twentieth Century Fox's PG-13 rated period thriller The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen fell three spots to come in at ninth in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $3.1 million (-38%) at 2,007 theaters (-525; $1,570 per theater). Its cume is approximately $58.8 million.
Directed by Stephen Norrington, it stars Sean Connery, Naseeruddin Shah, Peta Wilson, Tony Curran, Stuart Townsend, Shane West and Jason Flemyng.
Warner Bros.' R rated sci-fi actioner Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines fell three places to finish tenth in its fifth week with an ESTIMATED $2.9 million (-42%) at 1,910 theaters (-750; $1,526 per theater). Its cume is approximately $147.7 million.
Directed by Jonathan Mostow, it stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes and Kristanna Loken.
Banking on the recognition of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl co-star Kiera Knightley, Fox Searchlight further expanded its soccer drama Bend It Like Beckham, releasing it wide for the first time.
The PG-13 rated sports comedy made it to 12th place in its 21st week of release with an ESTIMATED $1.8 million (+716 %) at 883 theaters with a $1,821 per theater average. Its cume is approximately $28.3 million.
Directed Gurinder Chadha, it stars Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightley and Jonathan Rhys Meyers.
The Top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $133 million, down 6.02 percent from last year's take of $141.5 million. The Top 12 films were also down 9.8 percent from last weekend when they grossed $147.4 million.
Last year's top three included: Buena Vista's PG-13 rated sci-fi thriller Signs, which opened in first place with $60.1 million at 3,264 theaters ($18,418 per theater average); New Line Cinema's PG-13 rated Austin Powers in Goldmember, which followed in the No. 2 position in its second week with $31.1 million in 3,613 theaters ($8,613 per theater); and Sony Picture's The Master of Disguise, which opened in third place with $12.5 million at 2,565 theaters (($4,895 per theater average).