Australian Council on Children and the Media

Because of Winn-Dixie

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Short takes

Not recommended under 8, PG to 13 (Scary stuff. Themes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Because of Winn-Dixie
  • a review of Because of Winn-Dixie completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 17 July 2005.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Due to some scary content and mature themes, this movie is not recommended for children under the age of eight.
Children aged 8-13 Some children between the ages of eight and thirteen may still need parental guidance to view this film.
Children over the age of 13 Most children over the age of thirteen could see this film with or without parental guidance.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Because of Winn-Dixie
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mature themes
Length 106 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

The inhabitants of the small, impoverished town of Naomi have lost their joy for life and their sense of community spirit. Things look pretty bleak to Opal (AnnaSophia Robb), the vibrant and lonely Preacher’s daughter who, with her father, (Dave Matthews) has just moved to town. While her father attempts to come to terms with the fact that his wife has left him, and that he must preach his sermons at the back of a convenience store, Opal wants nothing more that to have some friends, but no one seems to want to be her friend.

She meets Winn-Dixie, a homeless dog with an almost human personality and an uncanny knack for charming people. Soon Opal is making lots of unusual friends such as the town librarian (Eva Marie Saint) and the local “witch” Gloria Dump (Cecily Tyson). Haunted by a desire to know something about a mother she can’t remember, Opal learns a lot about letting go and giving people a second chance. With the help of Winn-Dixie she teaches the town the value of friendship and helps bring the community together one member at a time.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Loss of a parent, isolation

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

The film contains a small amount of violence:

  • Winn-Dixie is running loose through a supermarket crashing into boxes and knocking over displays while the staff try to capture him.
  • Winn-Dixie grabs at a policeman’s pants, ripping them and causing them to fall off the officer’s body.
  • An angry neighbour tells Opal about how he shot his own dog.
  • A pet store supervisor tells Opal the story behind his arrest, explaining how he was angry and he broke a policeman’s nose.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

There were a few scenes that could possibly frighten young viewers:

  • The appearance of the witch could scare young children: she has wild, bushy hair, gnarly, groping hands and blind eyes.
  • Winn-Dixie goes onto an old property where the local children say a witch lives, and vanishes from sight. Opal heads off to rescue him and watches what she assumes to be a struggle between Winn-Dixie and the witch. Opal is clearly frightened as she believes that both she and her dog are about to be eaten by the witch. Due to the tension and visual images in the scene many younger viewers could be quite frightened.
  • Opal replays scenes from her early childhood, including the images of when her mother abandoned her.
  • Winn-Dixie is terrified of thunder storms and disappears during one. With thunder crashing and rain pouring down, a distraught Opal sets out to find him, but does not succeed. The tension of the scene combined with the dark oppressiveness of the storm and Opal’s tears of desperation could certainly worry a lot of younger children.

 

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by the scenes mentioned above.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

The above mentioned scenes could concern some children between the ages of eight to thirteen.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

It is unlikely that children over 13 will be frightened by any scenes in this film.

Product placement

The product Kraft Macaroni and Cheese is referred to and shown many times. It is Opal’s belief that it was this product that helped bring her and Winn-Dixie together.

Sexual references

None of concern.

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern.

Use of substances

While there was no use of substances, there were a number of references made to them:

  • An officer asks the pet store supervisor if he is on drugs.
  • We learn that Opal’s Mum had a drinking problem.
  • Gloria has a “mistake tree” whose branches are filled with empty bottles, including whisky and beer which are both mentioned in relation to her own drinking problem.

Coarse language

There was some mild coarse language and name calling, including:

  • “What the hell is going on?”
  • “Well I’ll be damned”
  • Frequent use of the phrase “Shut up idiot!”.

In a nutshell

The movie’s message is that life can be simultaneously sad and sweet and that everyone needs friends no matter who they are. The movie could provide parents with the opportunity to discuss with their children the importance of friends, including how to choose them, how to make them and how to keep them.

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