"I was an only child. He was an only dog."
Fictionalized account, based on the memoirs of Willie Morris, which tells of Willie (Frankie Muniz
) growing up in rural Mississippi, during World War II
, and how his beloved Jack Russell terrier, Skipper (Skip for short), changed his life.
The film was both a critical and commercial success, grossing over $35 million worldwide and earning itself a solid 73% on the Tomato-Meter
This movie contains the following tropes:
- An Arm and a Leg: Willie's father lost his leg as a result of a wartime injury.
- Anachronism Stew: Remarks are made of Willie's father receiving a Purple Heart for losing his leg in the Spanish Civil War, however, the U.S. military wasn't involved with said war.
- The Bet: Occurs between Willie and the fellahs before he becomes one of them: he has to spend the night in the local cemetery, next to where an old witch is supposedly buried - if he stays all night, he's one of the gang, but if he runs away, they keep the wartime souvenirs Dink sent him from France.
- Big Brother Mentor: How Willie sees his next door neighbor, Dink Jenkins.
- Comic Trio: The schoolyard bullies: Big Boy (Moe), Spit (Larry), Henjie (Curly)
- Dawson Casting: Luke Wilson as Dink Jenkins; Wilson was in his late 20s, portraying a high school graduate who enlists in the Army, and plans to attend college when he returns from the war.
- Death by Newbery Medal
- Defeat Means Friendship: Not right away: it takes winning a game of touch football to get the trio of schoolyard bullies to warm up to Willie, but they still tease him throughout the rest of the movie, though it becomes less frequent, to the point he is genuinely one them. They even say their goodbyes to him when he leaves for college.
- Dysfunctional Family: Averted with the Morris family, but given the time period of the film, the Morris family was considered unusual, since Willie was an only child.
- Likewise, his parents are perceived with reversed roles, with Willie's mother being handy around the house, and his father taking care of the house and cooking the meals and such.
- Embarrassing Nickname: The bullies give Willie a couple in the beginning - "Sissy" (for his preference of staying indoors and reading) and "Titty Baby" (supposedly for being a momma's boy.
- Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: Two of the schoolyard bullies, known only as "Big Boy" and "Spit".
- Five-Man Band: Once Willie is considered one of the fellahs, and Rivers hangs out with them as well:
- Gang Of Bullies: Big Boy, Spit, and Henjie.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: During the show-and-tell scene at school, one boy reads a passage from the Bible, making the other kids laugh - "So they saddled the ass, and mounted it".
- When Skip goes through mock Basic Training, he attacks a dummy made to look like Hitler, by biting the dummmy in the groin.
- Grumpy Old Man: Willie's father is more a middle-aged version of this. Then again, he was a war veteran who lost his leg, so what do you expect?
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: The bullies by the end of the movie.
- Dink as well, considering the horrors of war drive him into becoming an alcoholic, and the town starts gossiping about him being a turncoat and a coward.
- Local Hangout: The movie theater.
- Love at First Sight: When Willie first meets Rivers Applewhite, who is already established as the prettiest girl in town.
- Meaningful Name: Both Big Boy and Spit, considering Big Boy was an overweight kid, and Spit had a spitting habit.
- Men Can't Keep House: Subverted with Willie's father, since he pretty much does keep the house.
- Momma's Boy: Willie
- Nice Hat: Dink gives Willie his childhood baseball cap as a birthday present.
- Reading Is Cool Aesop: Inverted, while other boys liked to play outsides, and play sports, among other things, Willie much prefered to stay inside, and read classics like Huckleberry Finn.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran : Dink Jenkins
- Shout-Out: The film was pretty much an amalgam of two of Willie Morris' books: My Dog Skip and My Cat Spit McGhee.
- While the aforementioned cat does not appear in this movie, the character of Spit was named for the cat.
- Sweet Home Mississippi
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Rivers alone manages to pull this one off: she is generally a girly girl most of the time, though she is able to let her guard to down, and show Willie and the fellahs she can be one of the guys as well.
- Write Who You Know: Again, because the film is a fictionalized account of the childhood of Willie Morris.