Saturday, February 28, 2015

Movie review: Old Yeller

Just watched Old Yeller, though for the life of me I can't think why.

I'm sure I saw it as a kid. I'm just as sure that I read the book. I know the story, and how it ends. In fact, it's practically a trope now.

It was in my Netflix queue, so I assumed it was on one of the many lists of movies I'm supposed to watch for the 101 Things in 1001 Days, but it's not.

It's a story of a boy, his mother, his brother, and their dog. A stray yellow "yeller" dog shows up at their farmhouse in rural post Civil War Texas. Through loyalty, bravery and usefulness, the dog proves his worth to the family. Until the fateful day when, while saving the family from a rabid wolf, Old Yeller gets the disease and forces the family to make a heartbreaking decision.

As much as it's a story about the bond between dog and family, it's also the growing up summer of young Travis Coates, the older brother and at first reluctant dog owner. With his father on a cattle drive, Travis is the man of the house, and grows into the role with his mother's gentle guidance and the occasional bit of advice from other local men.

In typical 50s Disney style, it's heavy on family values, light on cultural tolerance. The sets are quite obviously fake. The theme song is pretty ridiculous. But with all that said, it's a good story: tragic but hopeful.

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