I was sure we were watching a Hallmark movie – or perhaps a Nicholas Sparks novel- at first. It dripped righteous sentimentality all over the place and had a number of older stars who still like to work, but don’t want to over-extend themselves.
It’s such a sweet story, a trip to the dentist isn’t out of the question. The original story was written in 1872 by English author Marie Louise de la Ramée, and I admit that I’ve never read it, so I can’t say how well the film follows the original. I’d be had pressed to come up with a more predictable story, but I should be gentle – my son liked it.
Nello is a young orphan living with his grandfather outside of the city of Antwerp. Early in the story, Nello and grandpa come across a beaten and abandoned Bouvier beside the road near their home. The two take it home and nurse it back to health, naming it Patrasche. The boy and dog bond as Nello uses Patrasche as a model of his developing sketch art until it is healthy enough to help him deliver milk using a small dog cart.
The meat of the story centers around Nello’s love for a young girl whose family has become prosperous since their early childhood together. As the girl’s family achieves wealth, Nello becomes less and less savory as a match for their daughter. Later, a misunderstanding places Nello at the scene of a massive fire at the family’s mill and he is sent away, never to see the girls again. Oh, and grandpa dies. And Nello is evicted from his home. And it’s snowing. – Amazingly, the dog doesn’t die. It was possibly the only twist to the tale.
I had a hard time disguising laughter for sniffles through the tear-jerking conclusion. It was just so predictable! How could anyone stand it?! Beware this film. Your young children might like it, but you’ll be stuck doing all you can to avoid breaking the spell.
[This just in, there is an anime version available that might solve some of the film’s problems – i.e. a cute, predictable story doesn’t bother me half as much if it’s animated. – is that weird?]
So, watch out John Voigt. If we ever bump into one another, this is what we’re going to talk about.