Because of Winn-Dixie (Wayne Wang). 106 minutes. Opens Friday (February 18). For venues and times, see Movies, page 90. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Jeff Daniels sure does a lot of sighing in Because Of Winn-Dixie . Maybe he's recalling W.C. Fields's advice about never acting with kids or dogs.
He's stuck with both in this routine adaptation of Kate DiCamillo 's children's book about 10-year-old Opal ( AnnaSophia Robb ), a girl who moves with her preacher father (Daniels) to a tiny Florida town and can't seem to make friends until she meets a scruffy dog in a Winn-Dixie grocery store.
The surprising thing is, neither the dog, whose performance is almost entirely reaction shots, nor the child is anything special. Newcomer Robb, who looks like she's wearing eyeliner, is no Dakota Fanning. She sounds, even in her voice-over narration, like she's in front of a classroom.
Director Wayne Wang (The Joy Luck Club) never finds the right tone for this bittersweet tale, and we have to rely on Rachel Portman 's score to tell us we're supposed to feel something.
But the long film does answer the question, what ever happened to Eva Marie Saint and Cicely Tyson ? Saint plays a saintly librarian, Tyson a blind woman with a past. Tyson's scenes - with Opal and even with the mutt - are among the most honest in the movie.