Monday, September 04, 2006


Written by Fumo Verde

Here's one for the kiddies. Saving Shiloh is the third film based on the trilogy of novels by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor about a boy and his beagle. The first two were Shiloh and Shiloh 2: Shiloh Season. The series has been adapted into films by writer/producer Dale Rosenbloom. This is definitely a "family values" movie. It stars Jason Dolley as Marty, a kindhearted 13-year-old (that's hard to find) with an extreme fondness for animals, especially dogs. I haven’t seen the other films nor read the books, so I can’t make any comparisons.

In Saving Shiloh, Marty has previously rescued Shiloh from his mean old neighbor Jed Travers (Scott Wilson), who everybody in town hates for one reason or another. It seems that Marty and his father, Ray Preston (Gerald McRaney), helped Jed in some way, so he feels indebted to repay the family. Unfortunately, he brings over some dead squirrels. "They make good stew. I eat 'em all the time."

Although Jed likes to beat his hunting dogs for fun, Marty sees the goodness in him and is on the path to find it. Shiloh, on the other hand, still remembers the way his previous owner treated him. Marty's trust gets shaken when he and his girlfriend, Samantha, who never gets closer than three feet to him, find a car that has been abandoned in the woods near the kids’ school.

It is discovered that the car belonged to a man who has been missing for a while, and is assumed dead. Controversy and speculation along with the regular gossip fly through the town and Jed becomes a suspect because they had a fight in a bar before the man’s disappearance. So much so, that the authorities bring Jed in for questioning. Meanwhile, the town is experiencing a rash of thefts. Tools from barns and sheds and emergency supplies for a terrorist attack have been taken and that blame is placed on Jed as well.

It isn't until Marty and Shiloh find the hideout and capture two escaped federal prisoners that Jed’s name is cleared. Still, folks all believe that he's the meanest son of a bitch around, except for Marty, although he has his doubts when he sees Jed throw one of his dogs across the yard. Jed tries to apologize but Marty isn't sure, until Marty's sister, Daryl Ann, falls into the river.

Of course Marty, being the good brother we all wish we had growing up, dives in to save her. Shiloh also dives in, and why not? He found the hideout and caught the inmates, so why not save the bratty sister? But Shiloh over-estimates his own powers and finds himself traveling downstream to what looks like will be a watery death for the little brown and white beagle. As Marty tries to save his four-legged friend from going over the falls by swimming to the rescue, his foot gets caught in the branches of an underwater tree. Never to fear, mean old Jed is here to save the day, and he does. Not only does he save Marty, but he also saves Shiloh. In the end, everybody lives happily ever after, including Jed.

This is one of those movies you sit through and wonder if anybody in the real world acts like these characters do, and if so, what are they taking that the rest of us are not. The story touches on certain ideals that certain American parents would like their children to have. It also touches on the subject (and I'm talking it barely touches) of the old American value of being innocent until proven guilty (see Articles V & VI of the U.S. Constitution-- The Bill of Rights), but yet plays it off, kind of like our justice system does in real life.

McRaney has now taken over the part of Ward Clever and Ozzie Nelson as the new "American Father Figure", and he does a damn good job at it. Wilson also does a good job as the mean old redneck that was beaten as a boy by his father. "Sometime he would beat me when he was sad, sometime he would beat me when he was happy, and sometime he was just happy to beat me."

For young impressionable kids, and adults who have lived a semi-sheltered life, this movie pulls on the heartstrings. For a guy like me, I couldn't wait for it to be over. It was a decent movie, if you were viewing it with your young kids, but as for something to really engross your mind, Saving Shiloh doesn't catch the intellectual fastball that hardcore movie watchers would go to see.

The extras on here include the usual interviews with the cast and director, and the music video for the end theme "Open Your Heat", plus an interview with Shiloh himself, or herself...I didn't really follow up on the extras, I was just happy to see the credits roll. I can't say that this was a bad movie. It's great for kids, but for the adults, well gang-- just don't look too deep into this, you're not going to find anything out you didn't already know.