×

Lassie

Since Hollywood of late finds itself continually going to the TV well for bigscreen source material, it was probably inevitable that a tube and film evergreen like "Lassie" would get a '90s update. New telling is a well-wrought, affecting adventure, thanks to the steady hand of vet helmsman Daniel Petrie and a sensitive, insightful screenplay that focuses on the human drama while providing a long leash to the famed collie's canine charisma, cunning and athletic prowess.

With:
Matt Turner - Thomas Guiry
Laura Turner - Helen Slater
Steve Turner - Jon Tenney
Jennifer Turner - Brittany Boyd
Sam Garland - Frederic Forrest
Len Collins - Richard Farnsworth
April - Michelle Williams
Jim Garland - Charlie Hofheimer
Josh Garland - Clayton Barclay Jones

Since Hollywood finds itself continually going to the TV well for bigscreen source material, it was probably inevitable that a tube and film evergreen like “Lassie” would get a ’90s update. New telling is a well-wrought, affecting adventure, thanks to the steady hand of vet helmsman Daniel Petrie and a sensitive, insightful screenplay that focuses on the human drama while providing a long leash to the famed collie’s canine charisma, cunning and athletic prowess. This “Lassie” is classy, and B.O. should be the same.

Those in search of surprises in a “Lassie” update are barking up the wrong tree, but the virtues of this outing should satisfy both small fry and accompanying grown-ups. Strongest appeal lies in the sharply observed and emotionally rich portrayal of a family confronting challenges together.

When contractor Steve Turner (Jon Tenney) moves his family from Baltimore to the ancestral country home of his late wife, least thrilled is teen son Matthew (Thomas Guiry). Little sister Jennifer (Brittany Boyd) is more enthusiastic, and stepmom Laura (Helen Slater) is supportive.

On the way to their old Virginia home, Lassie leaps into their car and their lives, and helps them face the challenges of living on the land.

It doesn’t hurt that their best shot at a livelihood involves sheep ranching, and Lassie just happens to be a pro sheep wrangler. Matthew’s icy resolve quickly melts, and the entire family begins to acclimate to country life.

There are a few thorns in the garden, however, including rival sheep rancher Sam Garland (Frederic Forrest) and his sons Jim (Charlie Hofheimer) and Josh (Clayton Barclay Jones).

One of the strongest elements of this “Lassie” is the authenticity of the Garland clan and their modern farming ethos. The two sons are particularly well-cast, and the script by Matthew Jacobs, Gary Ross and Elizabeth Anderson skillfully weaves details and psychological nuances of these other key characters into a sturdy, well-conceived blend.

Less satisfying is Tenney’s role, which seems uncertainly drawn, and he settles into playing a by-the-numbers almost-perfect Dad. Slater gets more out of her character, and particularly affecting are her moments of growing appreciation and love from the children.

Guiry is a pleasant juvenile lead, and Michelle Williams gives a winning perf as his love interest.

But what makes “Lassie” work is the craftsmanship and thoughtfulness that director Petrie and his creative team bring to the task. Particularly strong is Kenneth MacMillan’s economical lensing, which is understated, yet capable of delivering a touch of grandeur when required.

While some may scoff at the validity of yet another “Lassie,” the filmmakers clearly took the assignment seriously, and looked past its rather mixed recent TV history toward its classic elements. This “Lassie” may be short on new tricks , but for an old dog it still has plenty of smarts.

Lassie

Production: A Paramount release of a Broadway Pictures production. Produced by Lorne Michaels. Exec producer, Michael Rachmil. Co-producers, Dinah Minot, Barnaby Thompson. Directed by Daniel Petrie. Screenplay, Matthew Jacobs, Gary Ross, Elizabeth Anderson, based upon the character of Lassie created by Eric Knight.

Crew: Camera (Cine Film color; Deluxe prints), Kenneth MacMillan; editor, Steve Mirkovich; music, Basil Poledouris; production design, Paul Peters; art direction, David Crank; costume design, Ingrid Price; sound (Dolby), Stacy Brownrigg; assistant director, Christine L. Larson; Lassie's owner/trainer, Robert Weatherwax; casting, Gretchen Rennell. Reviewed at National Theater, L.A. , July 19, 1994. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 92 min.

With: Matt Turner - Thomas Guiry
Laura Turner - Helen Slater
Steve Turner - Jon Tenney
Jennifer Turner - Brittany Boyd
Sam Garland - Frederic Forrest
Len Collins - Richard Farnsworth
April - Michelle Williams
Jim Garland - Charlie Hofheimer
Josh Garland - Clayton Barclay Jones

More Film

  • Joker

    Korea Box Office: 'Joker' Remains on Top, 'Gemini Man' Lands in Fourth

    Warner Bros.’ “Joker” remained on top of the South Korean box office in its second weekend. The American psychological thriller earned $5.71 million from 768,000 admissions between Friday and Sunday, for a total of $28.3 million from 3.85 million admissions after two weekends. It accounted for 46% of total weekend box office in the country. [...]

  • dolittle-DRD_Tsr1Sht_1011_RGB_4_rgb-1

    Robert Downey Jr. Embarks on Perilous Journey in First 'Dolittle' Trailer (Watch)

    Robert Downey Jr. is setting sail with some furry friends in the first trailer for “Dolittle,” Universal Pictures’ reimagining of the classic story about a man who could speak to animals. “We have no choice but to embark on this perilous journey,” he says. Set to a rendition of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World,” [...]

  • Parasite

    Bong Joon Ho's 'Parasite' Posts Powerful Opening in North America

    Bong Joon-Ho’s dark comedy “Parasite,” which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, has launched with a spectacular $376,264 at three U.S. theaters.  Neon opened “Parasite” at The Landmark and Arclight Hollywood in Los Angeles and at the IFC Center in New York, where it broke the opening record set by 2014’s “Boyhood.” Its per-screen average of [...]

  • Joker Movie

    'Joker' Dominates International Box Office With $124 Million

    “Joker” is showing impressive traction internationally with a second weekend of $123.7 million on 24,149 screens in 79 markets — a holdover decline of just 29%. Joaquin Phoenix’s psychological thriller has totaled $351.2 million outside North America after only 12 days in release. And with $192 million in domestic grosses, “Joker” has now topped $543 [...]

  • Joker

    'Joker' Remains Box Office Ruler With $55 Million

    Joaquin Phoenix is king of the North American box office once again as “Joker” scores an easy victory in its second weekend with $55 million at 4,374 sites. “Joker” dominated a trio of new entries with animated comedy “The Addams Family” leading the rest of pack with $30.3 million at 4,007 venues, topping forecasts. Will [...]

  • French director Bertrand Tavernier attends the

    Bertrand Tavernier on Coppola, Scorsese, Cayatte, Cinema’s Bright Future

    Veteran French director Bertrand Tavernier (“Round Midnight”) – president and director of the Institut Lumière and Lumière Festival, which he co-manages with Cannes’ Thierry Frémaux – has played a pivotal role in restoring classic French films and defending the importance of French directors, such as Claude Autant Lara, Henri Decoin and André Cayatte, who were [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content