Shiloh (1997)

Directed by Dale Rosenbloom
Written by Dale Rosenbloom, based on the novel by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Starring Blake Heron, Michael Moriarty, Rod Steiger, Scott Wilson, Ann Dowd

My Advice: Wait for Cable.

Marty (Heron) is a young precocious boy just like any other precocious boy.  A bit lonely, though.  So when a hunting-dog-in-training escapes from the town drunk/poacher (Wilson), he and Marty bond like nobody's business.  Marty even gives him a name, Shiloh, which seems to hack everybody off.  But Marty's dad (Moriarty) can't afford a dog and Drunk Guy wants his dog back.  Tension ensues.

Let me make this easy for you.  If you're ten years or younger, you'll probably love this film because of all of the young boy plots involved—dogs, first crushes, and lying to one's parents.  All the good stuff.  But for adults—well, there's only so many scenes of a boy being licked in the face by a dog that one can take.  And believe me, there's plenty of them in this padded, drawn-out and predictable little film.

The problem is that the story is quite simple, and instead of falling back and embracing this truism, they instead blow the thing up into a huge moral debate.  Should we be nice to dogs?  Should we treat dogs as property?  Should we do whatever it takes to save a dog?  Here's the fallout though: Michael Moriarty's character is such a stingy bastard that it's hard to feel anything for him at all.  It's only towards the end of the film he actually manages to grow a heart, and it's far too late.  Heron is given nothing to do but be licked, he manages to do that well, God love him.  Wilson plays the drunk like there's no tomorrow.  The only thing worth watching in this piece of drek is Steiger, whose turn as the kindly general store owner/town vet is refreshing and quite moving.  When he relates the story about how he and his wife (Bonnie Bartlett) fought to raise the granddaughter (J. Madison Wright) when her parents died—now that's some fine acting.

But otherwise, it's more of that dog licking the kid.  You know, it's sad—because we could do with some decent family entertainment in this day and age, but it needs to be have slightly more excitement than a slab of cardboard.  Again, good for small kids, everyone else run away.

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