My Dog Skip

USA 1999

Reviewed by Amanda Lipman


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

Yazoo, Mississippi, 1940. Willie is a shy only child, who is bullied by his peers. His closest friend, local sporting hero Dink, sets off to fight in World War II. On Willie's ninth birthday, his mother gives him a puppy, which he names Skipper. With his dog at his side, Willie makes friends with a little girl, Rivers.

Forced by his former bullies, whom he has befriended, to spend a night in the cemetery, Willie chances on a couple of bootleggers who threaten to kill Skip if the boy gives them away. Dink returns home from the war, a reclusive drunk. Playing baseball, Willie is on bad form. When Skip leaps on to the field, Willie hits him. Skip runs off; Willie spends the rest of the day looking for him. Skip hides in the cemetery where he breaks all the bootleggers' bottles. One of them attacks him with a spade, just as Willie arrives with Dink who knocks the bootlegger out. Skip recovers. As an adult, Willie recalls how Skip and he remain inseparable until he left for university at Oxford. There, Willie gets a letter from his parents saying Skip has died.


Based on Willie Morris' memoir of growing up in the 40s, My Dog Skip is a glowing slice of nostalgia, all sleek cars, corner drugstores and crisp shirts. Here everyone, from the poor white trash to the segregated black families, gleams with an unassailable wholesomeness. If director Jay Russell raises prickly issues, he soon smooths them over to concentrate on the main action, the relationship between young Willie and his dog Skip. So while we see white folk going to the cinema through one door and black folk through another and hear Willie's white friends jeer when he becomes a keen supporter of Waldo Grace, a local black sports hero, it's all rather uncontroversial. Everything is seen through Willie's innocent eyes, without concession to the sensibilities and expectations of a critical modern, adult audience.

In this safe American idyll, Adolf Hitler is no more than a joke, a name at which Willie trains Skip to growl. Admittedly, Willie's world becomes a little more complicated when his friend Dink returns from the war an alcoholic wreck, only to be lambasted by the townspeople as a coward. There are hints of Boo Radley, the shy but kindly figure in To Kill a Mockingbird, in this reclusive, evasive war veteran, whom nobody except a child understands, and who is forced, thanks to the determined efforts of this child, to growl finally that it wasn't the dying he was afraid of during the war but the killing. But the film's focus on the relationship between the boy and his dog keeps such darker moments to the background. This central storyline has its share of strong scenes, particularly those in which Willie visibly relaxes, loses his habitual scowl and sheds his little old man cares - largely because of the cute antics of the effervescent Jack Russell playing Skip, who responds to all Willie's commands eagerly but wrongly.

Kevin Bacon - who featured in Russell's 1988 film End of the Line - plays Willie's sensitive, rather depressed father who lost a leg in the Spanish civil war and can't help being over-protective of his son. He and Diane Lane, as Willie's feisty but tender mother, do their best with the little they are given. But it's hard to get a sense of how they fit into Willie's world, perhaps because the boy is so focused on his dog. In one scene, as father and son walk through the countryside, Willie asks his dad about his losing a leg. But the moment of intimacy is lost; instead the scene centres on Willie's first encounter with death as a deer is shot. The rite of passage is particularly poignant for showing how Willie's father can't protect him from bad things in life. But the strength of this scene also owes a lot to the fact that in My Dog Skip such moments are rare.


Jay Russell
Mark Johnson
John Lee Hancock
Broderick Johnson
Andrew A. Kosove
Gail Gilchriest
Based on the book by
Willie Morris
Director of Photography
James L. Carter
Harvey Rosenstock
Gary Winter
Production Designer
David J. Bomba
William Ross
©MDS Productions, LLC
Production Companies
Alcon Entertainment presents a Mark Johnson/John Lee Hancock production
Executive Producers
Jay Russell
Marty Ewing
Production Executive
Kira Davis
Production Supervisor
Sheridan Thayer
Production Controller
Christi Moore-Brantley
Production Co-ordinator
Jennifer Corey
Unit Production Manager
Marty Ewing
Location Manager
Robin Robertson
Location Consultant
Anna Mewbourne-Elias
Post-production Supervisor
Brad Arensman
Assistant Directors
Chris Stoia
Pamela Cederquist
LA Unit:
Joan Cunningham
Script Supervisor
Judi Townsend
Mindy Marin
Marshall Peck
Jennifer Madeloff
Lou DiGiaimo
Stephanie Corsilini
Director of Photography
Additional Photography:
Cary Cook
Camera Operators
Marty Layton
Sal Camacho
Steadicam Operator
Bill Brummond
Projection Effects
Bill Hansard
Special Effects
Stephen Bourgeois
Matthew Zeringue
Set Decorators
Tracey A. Doyle
LA Unit:
Lee Cunningham
Rob Simons
Costume Designer
Edi Giguére
Costume Supervisor
Lovelynn Vanderhorst
Head Make-up Artist
Pamela Roth
L.A. Unit Make-up
Bridget Bergman
Head Hairstylist
K.G. Ramsey
Period Hair Consultant
Bryan Ewing
Pacific Title Research
Additional Music
Van Dyke Parks
William Ross
Music Supervisor
Deva Anderson
Music Co-ordinator
Delphine Robertson
Music Editors
Jim Harrison
Sherry Whitfield
Recording/Mixing Engineer
Robert Fernandez
Music Consultant
Scott Stambler
Music Scoring Consultant
Matthew Della Polla
"Tuxedo Junction" - Gene Krupa and his Orchestra; "There'll Be a Hot Time in the Town of Berlin" - The Andrews Sisters; "Lullaby of Broadway" - Richard Himber & His Orchestra; "I'm Beginning to See the Light" - Harry James; "Ration Blues" - Louis Jordan; "Chasing Shadows" - Louis Prima; "Old Yazoo" - The Boswell Sisters; "Moonlight Promenade; "Starlight Serenade"; "The Round Up Prelude"; "Hop-Along"; "200 Bright"; "Washington in the New"
Sound Design
Stephen Hunter Flick
Sound Mixer
Steve C. Aaron
Ryan Murphy
L.A. Unit Sound Mixer
Sunny Meyer
Supervising Re-recording Mixer
Jeffrey Perkins
Re-recording Mixer
Samuel Lehmer
Supervising Sound Editor
Charles Maynes
Dialogue Editors
David Bach
David V. Butler
Alexandra Gonzales
Tim Rakoczy
Effects Editor
William Jacobs
Loop Group
L.A. MadDogs
Jeffrey Barnett
Bruce Bell
Supervising Editor:
Stewart Nelson
Jeffrey Barnett
Bruce Bell
Dale Brown
Dana Gustafson
Edward Steidele
Alexander Schwartz
Ray Rosamond
Will Cauthen
Jonathon Dickson
Drew Malone
Chris Peusch
Kenner Purvis
David Rings
Kris Rosamond
Stunt Co-ordinator
Jeff Habberstad
Animal Trainers
Mathilde De Cagny
William S. Grisco
Deer Wranglers
Barbara Blough
John Blough
Frankie Muniz
Willie Morris
Diane Lane
Ellen Morris
Luke Wilson
Dink Jenkins
Kevin Bacon
Jack Morris
Mark Beech
army buddy
Susan Carol Davis
Mrs Jenkins
David Pickens
Mr Jenkins
Bradley Coryell
Big Boy Wilkinson
Daylan Honeycutt
Henjie Henick
Cody Linley
Spit McGee
Lucile Doan Ewing
Aunt Maggie
Polly Craig
Grandmother Mamie
John Stiritz
Grandfather Percy
Caitlin Wachs
Rivers Applewhite
Elizabeth Rice
Rivers' friend
Nate Bynum
man on street
Stacie Doublin
woman on street
Bill Butler
Winston Groom
Mr Goodloe
Katherine Shoulders
Mrs Applewhite
Nathaniel Lee
Joann Blankenship
Miss Abbott
Hunter Hays
accordion boy
Cannon Smith
bible boy
Courtney Brown
snake girl
Brian Witt
armpit boy
Clint Howard
Peter Crombie
Junior Smalls
Jerome Jerald
Waldo Grace
Jordan Williams
Lt Hartman
John Sullivan
Stuart Greenwell
Harry Hood
baseball coach
Gordon Swaim
Owen Boutwell
Chaon Cross
Jim Fraiser
Graham Gordy
pump jockey
Michael Berkshire
older Willie
Wayne Wimberly
older Spit
Josh Yates
older Henjie
James Thweat
older Big Boy
Harry Connick Jr
Warner Bros Distributors (UK)
8,564 feet
95 minutes 9 seconds
Dolby Digital/DTS/SDDS
In Colour
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011