All right, hold up on those no-one-cares- about-Lassie sentiments. It’s running a 92% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a critic I respect told me a couple of hours ago that he “bawled like a baby” when he saw it a few days ago.
Could this G-rated British programmer be made of the actual right stuff? You can’t blame me for presuming that this modest little film, opening 9.1 via the Samuel Goldywn Co., was just a run-of-the-mill family flick featuring auto-pilot paycheck performances by costars Peter O’Toole and Samantha Morton. Has anyone ever seen The Magic of Lassie (1978) with Jimmy Stewart? Stewart sang a song over the opening credits, and I haven’t forgotten that. It was horrible.
Please understand that HE is not preturnaturally cynical about dog movies, and that the two publicists at Rogers & Cowan who are handling the film for Goldwyn never even sent me a screening invitation (a man-about-town who goes to just about everything didn’t get an invitation either), and also that I tried to track them down a little while ago and they’re out and their voicemail isn’t working. I tried Goldwyn and they’re “out to lunch” also.
The only thing that gives me concern is a review by Onion critic Scott Tobias that says writer-director Charles Sturridge “doesn’t mess with the Lassie formula — he provides plenty of dog-porn shots of the collie bounding through scenery in slow motion.”
Every now and then a movie about a family and a lost dog can be okay, and if you can’t find a place in your heart for flicks of this sort then you shouldn’t be reviewing movies. You have to be emotionally receptive; you’ve got to leave your heart door unlocked in case the right movie comes knocking.
That said, I’m going to admit to something that perhaps I shouldn’t admit to. When I read the phrase “dog porn” I naturally…you know. And I think a lot of us would ike to see a Lassie movie in which Lassie’s brother Laddie develops a special relation- ship with Scarlett Johansson. She could play a rich Scotsman’s unfaithful wife who develops an extraordinary bond with Laddie, and it could be set, like Lassie, in the England and Scotland of the 1940s. I’m not suggesting a stupid dog-porn flick, for God’s sake. I’m thinking of a story that includes genuine tenderness and vulnerability and intimacy of a very special sort. We all know that animal eroticism is very big on the internet and is one of the last remaining taboos, and it’s just a matter of time before the right filmmaker approaches it with taste and discretion. I know it sounds like I’m kidding, but I’m not. Not entirely, I mean.
Nagisa Oshima‘s Max, Mon Amour, a monkey-relationship movie with Charlotte Rampling , broke the barrier back in ’86, Given this precedent, going canine 20 years later, especially in today’s mock-salacious environment, wouldn’t even be seen as nervy.