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BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE

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A shaggy, friendly dog named Winn-Dixie helps lonely 10-year-old girl Opal (Annasophia Robb) discover unlikely friends in this heart-warming family comedy drama from Wayne Wang, adapted from Kate DiCamillo's popular novel. Wang's film -- set in one of those mythical sleepy Southern towns -- is as sentimental and predetermined as a Hallmark movie, incorporating the doofus cop, the crazy-but-sage old black woman (Cicely Tyson, always a welcome presence), the cranky neighbor and a preternaturally savvy dog. Eva Marie Saint is the town's librarian and historian, and musician Dave Matthews is on board as an oddball pet-store owner (yes parents, he sings a bit). Along the way, young Opal also learns to accept loss -- including that of her own mother some years back. Like the fabled Littmus Lozenges candies -- sweet with a hint of sadness -- that once sustained the now run-down town, Winn-Dixie is little sweet and a little melancholy, and substantially more predictable.

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