Lassie Comes Home Again
Before contemplating what I was going to say about this 2005 version of "Lassie" I had a look back at what I wrote for the 1943 version "Lassie Come Home". And pretty much everything I said about that 1943 version could be said about this new version, some would say remake but I would say new adaptation of Eric Knight's beloved novel. The essence of the story, the love between young Joe and Lassie is still present and the adventures which Lassie encounters on her journey home are entertaining. The slight differences for the most work, adding to the humour but also the depth of the storyline and with this version shot in Ireland it certainly looks a lot more believable than the 1943 version.
Times are hard for the Carraclough family and with the mines closed Sam Carraclough (John Lynch - Sliding Doors) has to do the unthinkable and sell the family dog Lassie to The Duke (Peter O'Toole - Troy) despite knowing it will break his, his wife Sarah (Samantha Morton - In America) and their son Joe's (Jonathan Mason) hearts to do so. But it also breaks Lassie's heart as she continually escapes The Duke's kennels and his cruel dog handler Mr. Hynes (Steve Pemberton) to return back to Joe. With the Duke and his granddaughter Cilla (Hester Odgers) heading up to his Scottish residence they take Lassie with them but after another run in with Hynes Lassie escapes and starts a miraculous journey as she tries to make it back to Yorkshire and Joe, meeting people and escaping capture along the way.
So the basic storyline to this version of "Lassie" is the same as that of the 1943 version as hard times befall the Carraclough family and whilst it breaks everyone's hearts Sam is forced to sell Lassie to The Duke. But there is more depth to this as we see the mine being closed down as the catalyst for Sam being forced to sell Lassie. And before that, whilst we watch Lassie independently go to meet Joe from school each day, we learn that Joe is miserable at school, his lack of concentration leads to rapped knuckles by a strict teacher. It certainly paints a less glossy picture than the original, creating a more realdy worldy grittiness whilst still being a family movie.
The rest of the movie plays out in a similar manner with slight changes adding that little something extra to this version of the story. There is a proper storyline surrounding why Priscilla, or Cilla as she is called here, is living with her Grandfather and how she empathises with Lassie as all she wants is to return home to. There are also differences when it comes to Lassie's remarkable journey home when she escapes from the Duke's kennels in Scotland. A run in with the police and some dog catchers add a nice touch of comedy and romance to things without ever feeling too forced, just fun escapism.
All of which is of course very episodic as each episode basically covers another of Lassie's little adventures on her journey home with some working out better than others. An episode which sees her spotted by some monster hunters on Loch Ness just doesn't work despite giving us Edward Fox in a small cameo. Yet an episode which sees Lassie enter a courtroom adds to the amusement and like wise allows for a pleasant cameo from Robert Hardy as the judge. But the best episode is the one which sees Lassie hook up with travelling dwarf Rowlie and his dog Toots. Peter Dinklage gives such a charming and kind performance as Rowlie as he meets and befriends Lassie that you wish there could have been more for him. And amusingly this episode also paves the way for another cameo this time from Nicholas Lyndhurst although it's not a fun one.
Now alongside all these cameos and you can add the names Kelly Macdonald and Jemma Redgrave to the list the actual main performances are on the money. Jonathan Mason plays young Joe as a very quiet boy, completely in contrast to the way Roddy McDowall played him in the 1943 version, but it works because the only things Joe has going for him are his loving parents and Lassie, it is again more realistic. And Samantha Morton does a grand job of playing Joe's mum Sarah not only dealing with her own emotions of having to sell Lassie but also the heartbreak of seeing Joe so upset. Plus there is Peter O'Toole who has this almost cheekiness about him as The Duke, pretending to be nasty but at heart a good guy all the more so for having young Cilla around. Talking of which Hester Odgers also impresses as young Cilla as she gets the right amount of sadness across at wanting to be home with her mum and dad rather than having to live with her Grandfather because of the war.
What this all boils down to is that the 2005 version of "Lassie" is a very good movie and in some ways, in fact in many ways, is better than the 1943 original. It feels far more real and gritty yet still managing to be an entertaining family movie which delivers something for all ages. And of course there is something simply special about Lassie, played by the talented Mason, which makes you fall in love with this dog.
Tags: Dog Movies