My Dog Skip: a time when communities were small
Over Spring Break, the Rocha family has viewed a couple of movies this week. We watched the film My Dog Skip (2000), which stars Kevin Bacon and Frankie Munoz, which I vaguely remember.  It is not a coming of age movie per se, but rather an awkward boy who becomes one of the boys when he gets a dog for his 9th birthday. The major theme of the movie is friendship.

The movie is based on the childhood of Willie Morris, who is the author of the book by the same title. The story takes place in Yazoo, MS johnerocha.comduring the early American participation of World War II.  Willie’s father is a crippled American veteran from the Spanish Civil War. We do not learn the exact background to his injury, but that he is a respected citizen of the community is seen.

The other quiet but significant male character is Dink Jenkins, played by Luke Wilson.  Dink is a young man, who is the community’s future, both in terms of his athleticism and natural charisma. Willie speaks of someday being just like Dink throughout the movie. When the movie begins, Dink is at war, so we do not see him until he returns home. His homecoming is not one of hero, but a quiet one in the dark of night with a whiskey bottle in his hand. Earlier in the day, a small crowd gathered at the town bus stop awaiting his return; later during a rainy night he returned quietly in a taxi and bottle in hand…no military uniform, no medals. There was one person who saw him and ran to greet him, his friend and admirer, Willie Morris. johnerocha.comDink left home the local hero and returned a coward of war. Dink hides in his parents house for a few weeks, before he sees the public as they now see him.

Later when skip is lost and Willie cannot find him, he turns to Dink and asks for help.  The following dialogue ensues:
Dink: You bawling like a big baby ’cause you lost that ball game?
Willie Morris: What do you know about it? You didn’t come you big liar. Leave me alone.

Dink: That’s how it is, isn’t it? You’re a hero today, and then you’re a goat tomorrow. Now I didn’t come because games don’t mean nothing to me anymore.
Willie Morris: It’s not the game. It’s Skip. He’s gone for good.

Dink: For good? Now how do you know that? You some kind of fortune teller?
Willie Morris: I got mad at him and I hit him. And he ran away. Just like you ran away. Skip was never afraid of nothing.

Dink: You think I don’t know what folks are saying? That old Dink’s a coward? Huh? Well I know. And you know what? They’re right. I got scared. And I ran. You think it was ’cause I was afraid of dying? Because I wished I was dead plenty of times.
Willie Morris: Then what was it?
Dink: It ain’t the dying that scary, boy. It’s the killing. Now look, that dog ain’t lost. You just need to know where to find him. There’s gotta be at least one place around here that you hadn’t thought of to look at, right?

[Willy runs off to find Skip]

Jack Morris: Sometimes he gets mad and says things he doesn’t mean. He gets it from his mother. When I got back from Spain, I got into accounting. I figured I could hide behind a desk. I looked down, and I didn’t so much as look up for a whole year. When I finally did, people weren’t staring at me anymore. I guess they kind of forgot about it.
Dink: Well, Mr. Morris. You got a purple heart. I got a yellow stripe. You can trust me. They don’t forget about cowards.

Jack Morris: Well, folks like to keep things small, Dink. Fit you into one pocket or the other. Give a man a label, and you never really need to get to know him. My son, he looks up to you, Dink. Not because you can run or throw a ball. You’re his hero because you’re his friend. And that’s what he needs. A friend. — IMDb Quotes: My Dog Skip (2000)

The significance of both conversations is that friendship even pierces through the public judgment of a coward.  In the eyes of Dink, it is death both of the enemy and oneself that he is not comfortable with, that he fears.  Willie relates this not to himself and an enemy but to the one creature closest to him, Skip. The second part of the conversation is between Dink and Jack Morris, Willie’s father. Jack reminds Dink of what friendship really is, and how Willie more than anyone else has offered it to him since his return. Jack’s comments is the arm of friendship reaching out to Dink.

By the end of the movie, particularly the last thirty minutes is an emotional roller coaster ride, my daughters felt good at the end and were definitely tired as they felt the emotional pull of the characters.  Their comments were similar in tone…”was that all necessary to get us to the end of the movie?”

I recommend the movie more for tweeners than for the younger children in the family.  It is definitely worth watching with the family.

2 thoughts on “My Dog Skip: a time when communities were small

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