One of my standard pieces of advice for parents searching for movies that both they and their kids can enjoy is to seek out live-action animal films in which the pets do not talk. Normally, such films are philosophical lightweights -- not raising any issues at all. Also, they are propaganda lightweights -- not placing in the standard moral imperatives that you find in children's movies.
A Dog of Flanders is one of many exceptions to this rule.
Rarely does one run into films with so many ideas as A Dog of Flanders. In most movies, a plethora of concepts is a good thing. However, in A Dog of Flanders, said concepts are placed side-by-side with modern day messages for children, such as "drink your milk" and "honor thy mother and father." What are the kind of ideas that A Dog of Flanders has as a contrast to "drink your milk?" Well, for starters, destroy the aristocracy and allow the proletariat to propagate the world.
Yes, that's right: A Dog of Flanders is one of those pre-Marx Marxist documents that would have had McCarthy blacklisting the cast and crew of this film so that they couldn't work the rest of their days. It's one of those movies that takes on every institution it can, from a class-system to the Catholic Church. Now far from to venture out his own opinion on whether or not Greed is Good, but the fact of the matter is that a Marxist document is just too involved for children's viewing.
Were this movie then not to patron itself so much towards the children's audience with such things as "drink your milk", "honor thy mother and father", and "all good things come to those that wait," I would go so far as to recommend this to a more liberal demographic of viewers. However, whoever gave the green light to this flick decided that it was going to be a kid's film, and screwed up the film's potential in the process. The result is that the kid's propaganda that finds its way into the film annoys the hell out of anyone trying to watch it for its Marxist themes.
For those potential viewers who are still interested in the film despite a very good reason to steer clear of this flick, I will summarize what A Dog of Flanders is about. Boy is orphaned and lives with grandfather on farm with evil landlord. Boy finds dog. Boy falls in love with rich neighbor's daughter. Boy likes to paint, and thus rich neighbors daughter models for him. Boy wishes to enter contest to equal the economic playing field between girl and boy.
That's about it.
Somehow, through all of the pontification that this film goes through, it ends up with a running time of around an hour and forty minutes, and through some quirk of fate, I sat through its duration.
Don't make my mistake.