out of Five
Running time: 99
Well-made, nicely acted, enjoyable family film that will bring tears to the eyes of anyone who isn’t dead inside.
Lassie is a thoroughly traditional picture based on Eric Knight’s original 1940 British novel that spawned the 1943 original movie, several TV series, a radio show and ten other Lassie movies to boot.
The film is set in a Yorkshire mining town in what looks like the early 1950s. When the Carraclough family fall on hard times they are forced to sell their beloved border collie Lassie to the Duke of Rudling (Peter O’Toole) and his granddaughter (Hester Odgers). However, Lassie keeps escaping and returning to his young master, Joe (Jonathan Mason).
The Duke transports Lassie to his remote castle on the coast of Scotland, some 500 miles away. However, she’s determined to escape and return to Joe, so sets off on a perilous journey.
The phrase Never work with animals or children clearly holds no fear for director Charles Sturridge, and he gets terrific performances from his two young leads. Both Hester Odgers and Jonathan Mason are superb and Mason in particular has to carry the more emotional scenes.
The supporting cast is also superb. O’Toole steals every scene he’s in, Steve Pemberton is good value as the dog-hating right-hand man and both Samantha Morton and John Lynch put in strong performances as Joe’s parents. The real star of the film is, of course, Lassie herself. It’s just one dog doing all the work and, unsurprisingly, she’s impossibly cute.
If there’s a problem with the film it’s only that it fails to adequately convey the sheer length of Lassie’s journey home, something the 1943 film did brilliantly.
Lassie is a thoroughly enjoyable family film of the sort that they really don’t make anymore. However, be warned, if you take young children to see this you may find yourself getting a border collie for Christmas.