Eric Wright's classic novel about a boy and his dog is resurrected in this charming adaptation from Charles Sturridge (BRIDESHEAD REVISITED), which is a far cry from the Americanized TV show of the 1950s. Unfolding in Yorkshire, England, just before WWII, the film makes the most of its low budget and is quite successful at evoking the era. Joe (Jonathan Mason) is the only son of a poor miner, Sam (John Lynch), and his steadfast wife, Sarah (Samantha Morton, MORVERN CALLAR). Joe's story is paralleled by that of Priscilla (Hester Odgers), the poker-faced granddaughter of the ostentatiously wealthy duke (a grand Peter O'Toole). Priscilla takes a liking to Lassie when she spots the dog in the street. The duke tries to buy Lassie from her family, and when the mine is shut down, Sam has no choice but to accept his offer. Lassie's allegiance, however, is not so easily transferred, and she constantly finds ways to escape the confines of her new home, even when she is taken to Scotland. Undertaking the long journey back to Joe, Lassie makes friends--and a few enemies--along the way, including a charming Peter Dinklage as Rowlie the roving puppeteer. The photography of the English and Scottish countryside is truly breathtaking, and Lassie is eternally endearing as the symbol of freedom, loyalty, and friendship--virtues that are valued and epitomized in the film by young and old, rich and poor. This is a film in which you can always tell the bad guys because they don't like dogs.
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