This adaptation of Willie Morris's autobiographical novel about growing up in small town Mississippi in WWII prominently features a Jack Russell, but mercifully the terrier is not allowed to steal the show. Rather, the dog serves as a bone of contention between eight-year-old Willie's parents: his mother - the optimistic Ellen (Lane) - thinks Skip will relieve the studious boy's social isolation; his lame, war veteran father Jack (Bacon) calls it 'a heartbreak waiting to happen'. For the boy (Muniz), Skip's a reliable companion, who somehow eases Willie's sometimes troubled path though a childhood dogged by fractious local boys and falling idols. The film manages psychological realism within its clearly defined bounds. Muniz makes a credible impression as the boy, his restraint reminding us of the reactive nature of childhood. The small victories he achieves aren't over-emphasised, and the role played by his resourcefulness, intelligence and fidelity play is left for the audience to infer. Moreover, although Willie gets his big day, proudly displaying to an impressed classroom the German helmet his hero/mentor Dink has sent him from a foreign field, the film allows Dink to return a fractured alcoholic.