As World War II is brewing, poor Yorkeshire family the Carracloughs are forced to sell their jdog Lassie to the Duke Of Rudling, much to nine-year-old Joe's (Mason) distress. Transported to remote Scotland, Lassie escapes and begins the long journey home, finding danger and friendship on the way.
Opening with swearing, pissing coal miners, it’s clear from the off that this remake of Lassie Come Home is no scrubbed-up Disney fantasy. But by emphasising the harshness of life in
1930s Yorkshire, writer/director Charles Sturridge paves the way for an emotional conclusion in which harmony must be restored for both dog and boy.
Like the displaced Lassie, Joe (Jonathan Mason) has a difficult journey ahead: the family’s broke and his father has gone to war. But by focusing on the dog’s literal journey rather than the boy’s emotional one, this is a more an adventure film than a coming-of-age drama.
There’s entertainment in Lassie’s ingenious escape attempts, and the dog’s encounters along the road draw out likeable characters such as travelling puppeteer Rowlie (Peter Dinklage). Some of the child actors come off worse in their scenes with old hands like Peter O’Toole, but little Jonathan Mason’s lip-trembling inspires the right note of affectionate pity — as, crucially, does Lassie herself. Mixing humour, adventure and boy-dog bonding in time-honoured fashion, the result is unsurprising but reliable family fare.
Thanks to a relatively gritty setting and an estimable adult cast, this sentimental story is rendered bearable for adults and children alike.