What the fuck was Peter Dinklage thinking? I like the actor – people have accused me of just liking him because he’s a dwarf, but the truth is that he’s an interesting actor with great presence. If he was of normal height he’d be huge – no pun intended. I think the guy could have been James Bond.
So what’s up with him in the latest version of Lassie? It’s not that I think a kid’s movie about a collie is beneath him – it’s that his accent sounds like a drunk guy doing Lucky the Leprechaun. It’s just embarrassing, far more embarrassing than playing against a couple of dogs and being forced to make a Benji joke. The other actors in the film are legitimately English and Scottish and whatever else these pasty motherfuckers call themselves, and then here’s the Dink just coming off like he’s in a grade school play. It’s excruciating is what it is.
The rest of the film is less excruciating, although it does feature the Loch Ness Monster in a cameo, and I do wish I was joking about that. This latest version isn’t the “Timmy fell in a well” stuff that we grew up on here in America – the movie hearkens back to the original book, and it fancies itself a moderately gritty period piece. Lassie is set just before World War II, in an English mining town. The titular dog is owned by a kid who appears to be young Thom Yorke, but when the mine is shut down and “da” is out of work, the family is forced to sell Lassie to Lawrence of Arabia, looking much the worse for that motorcycle accident. Peter O’Toole is a rich landed gentry type, and he gets what he wants, and what he wants is that dog for his granddaughter, who has come to the country to avoid potential bombings in London, and to perhaps find a wardrobe.
Lassie wants to Come Home, though, and she escapes a couple of times. Finally, Zaltar moves the granddaughter and the dog way north to Scotland. While they’re in Scotland, Lassie escapes yet again and begins an incredible journey back home. Along the way she has all sorts of adventures, each of which is just a little bit more irritating than the last.
I thought that Lassie was really going to be something else when the movie opened on stark images of class disparity – Alan Swann in his limousine, fox hunting, while the miners work hard and grimy for little reward. When the fox escapes into the mine the workers conspire to save his little life, mostly just to piss off the uppercrust types. Class warfare is something I could get behind, and I was hoping that this was going to be some kind of Ken Loach version of All Dogs Go To Heaven. Sadly, the social realist stuff quickly goes away as Lassie has her adventures across Britannia and things get generally lighter. Lassie meets a sea monster, Lassie evades dog catchers, Lassie brings two strangers together so they fall in love. That kind of stuff.
The dog playing Lassie is quite lovely, and as a serious sucker for dogs that’s almost enough to make the film passable all by itself. And the film is barely passable, but after a while – and even before Dinklage shows up and single handedly wrecks the whole thing with his gruesome accent – Lassie wears thin. It’s a little too long, and by the end the tugs on your heartstrings feel more like heartstring muggings.
Some people complain that a film like this should be reviewed only from the point of view of the “target audience.” This is nonsense on a lot of levels – does the target audience of a Lassie movie go to the theater alone? Can’t a movie work outside of its target audience? And should a Larry the Cable Guy movie get a 10/10 because it’s perfect for the retards who like him? Kids will probably like Lassie well enough, although it’s not terribly modern and ADD Adam might have a hard time. Mom and dad won’t want to tear their hair out, but they won’t be wildly engaged. Sadly, Lassie misses the opportunity to just be a good enough movie to appeal to all moviegoers, regardless of their age or parental status.