An ordinary if decently handled boy-loves-dog kidpic, "Shiloh" lacks the stuff to make much impression theatrically. It's solid enough fare, suggesting sweet future family homevideo and cable market returns.

An ordinary if decently handled boy-loves-dog kidpic, “Shiloh” lacks the stuff to make much impression theatrically. It’s solid enough fare, suggesting sweet future family homevideo and cable market returns.

Small-town 11-year-old Marty (Blake Heron) befriends a purebred beagle when it runs away from new master Judd (Scott Wilson), a small-game hunter whose idea of “training” his hounds verges on the cruel. Dubbing the nameless canine Shiloh , Marty soon develops a passion to adopt the pup. His parents (Michael Moriarty, Ann Dowd) are less enthused, since financial hardship has rendered support of their own biological brood including Marty’s two little sisters difficult enough.

After Shiloh flees harsh Judd a second time, Marty secretes the doggie in a makeshift shed spruced up with help from his smitten female peer Sam (J. Madison Wright). When pup is mauled by a stray dog, this deception is forced into the open. At first irate, strict dad begins to bend; however, ornery Judd’s pride is a larger stumbling block to ownership.

Simple narrative will keep younger viewers involved, but lack of any genuine surprises after initial setup won’t hold any adult attention hostage. While he’s not made out as toocrudely malevolent there are suggestions Judd’s “meanness” springs from a tough childhood and shamed adult illiteracy Wilson’s foe never gains the character depth one might like. Happy ending arrives far too rotely.

Kid players aren’t major finds, unhelped by protestational dialogue whose precocity verges on bratdom. Package overall is slick if thoroughly conventional , with pretty rural lensing and a solid, old-school orchestral score. More practiced thesps Moriarty and Rod Steiger (as a kindly local doctor-general-storekeeper) are in restrained, albeit hardly challenged, form. The puppy fills requirements for basic cuteness.

Shiloh

Production

A Utopia Pictures/Carl Borack production in association with Zeta Entertainment. Produced by Zane W. Levitt, Dale Rosenbloom. Executive producers, Carl Borack, Mark Yellen. Directed, written by Dale Rosenbloom, based on the novel by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.

Crew

Camera (color), Frank Byers; editing, Mark Westmore; music, Joel Goldsmith; production design, Amy Ancona; costumes, Charmain Schreiner. Reviewed at the Lark Theatre, Larkspur (in Mill Valley Film Festival), Oct. 13, 1996.

With

Ray Preston - Michael Moriarty
Doc Wallace - Rod Steiger
Marty Preston - Blake Heron
Judd Travers - Scott Wilson
Mrs. Wallace - Bonnie Bartlett
Louise Preston - Ann Dowd
Shiloh - Frannie
With: Tori Wright, Shira Roth, J. Madison Wright, Rachel Winfree, Montrose Hagins, Amzie Strickland.
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more