A well-intentioned adaptation of a popular 19th Century children's story, the unfortunate film "A Dog of Flanders" plays like one of those medicinal family movies kids of generations past used to reluctantly watch over Sunday night TV dinners once the football games were over.
Full of flat acting from apple-cheeked children and miscast demi-stars with (at best) waning marquee power, it's a Dickensian yarn about a Dutch orphan who lives with his dying grandfather, saves a mangy mutt (easily the ugliest movie dog in history) from a cruel owner, develops a crush on a judgmental mill owner's daughter, discovers his inborn ability to paint through the tutelage of a wise old mentor and his admiration for the works of Peter Paul Rubens, enters an art contest and loses, gets booted from his modest home by a mean old landlord, and just about every other cheap, dramatic Victorian-era cliche you can think of.
Saddled with shopworn roadblocks (falsely accused of starting a barn fire, caught in a blizzard) to an inevitably happy ending that, of course, involves a revelation about the boy's father (one which the audience picks up on in the second reel), "A Dog of Flanders" is so busy dolling out life lessons that director Kevin Brodie apparently never stopped to think about making the movie entertaining.
Never have I heard as many fidgeting children (or fidgeting parents for that matter) in a movie as I did at the preview screening of this film. Kids and adults alike were flat out bored.
This third screen adaptation of this out-dated story was made by Jon Voight's production company, which explains his wildly out-of-place role as the art teacher. Equally miscast is Cheryl Ladd, whose undefinable accent comes an goes as the mother of the boy's love interest.
Veteran actor Jack Warden plays the grandfather, Farren Monet and Madyline Sweeten play the girl at different ages, and the orphan boy is played, also at two different ages, by a pair of young actors who could use a lot of practice named Jesse James ("Message in a Bottle") and Jeremy James Kissner ("Great Expectations," 1998).
Run time: 100 mins
In Theaters: Friday 27th August 1999
Distributed by: Warner Home Video
Contactmusic.com: 1 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 21%
Fresh: 5 Rotten: 19
IMDB: 6.3 / 10
Director: Kevin Brodie
Starring: Jack Warden as Jehan Daas, Jack Warden as Nello, Jesse James as Young Nello, Jon Voight as Michel, Cheryl Ladd as Anna, Bruce McGill as William, Steven Hartley as Cogez, Andrew Bicknell as Stephens, Farren Monet as Aloise
Also starring: Jeremy James Kissner
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