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Paramount Studios presents
Lassie (1994)

Matthew Turner: I thought I told you not to watch that crap.
Jennifer Turner: I like Lassie!

- Thomas Guiry, Brittany Boyd

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: May 10, 2002

Stars: Tom Guiry, Helen Slater, Jon Tenney, Frederic Forrest, Richard Farnsworth, Brittany Boyd
Other Stars: Michelle Williams, Charlie Hofheimer, Clayton Barclay Jones, Joe Inscoe, Earnest Poole Jr., Jeffrey H. Gray, Yvonne Brisendine, Jody Smith Strickler, Margaret Peery, Robert B. Brittain
Director: Daniel Petrie

Manufacturer: IFPI
MPAA Rating: PG for for some pre-teen mischief, mild language and suspenseful action.
Run Time: 01h:54m:37s
Release Date: March 12, 2002
UPC: 097363303442
Genre: family

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Growing up in the 1960s, one couldn't be without the classic 1950s TV series Lassie, about a boy and his faithful dog, and for this reviewer, it didn't hurt that the show was marketed as Jeff's Collie in Canada. Lassie was always there to save the day, whatever the peril, and it was near impossible not to love the highly intelligent collie. 1943's Lassie Come Home, starring Roddy McDowell and Elizabeth Taylor, was one of the few Technicolor films of the era, told of the devotion of a collie for her master, laying the groundwork for the franchise that followed, including three feature films, five made-for-TV movies and four TV series—Lassie (1954 and 1997), Lassie's Rescue Rangers(1973) and The New Lassie (1989), all based on Eric Knight's character. This 1994 film updates the story, but follows tradition in its basic premise, and was surprisingly better than I had anticipated, with a few caveats.

The Turner family is leaving the big city and moving to the country, to the home where Steve Turner's (Jon Tenney) first wife, and mother of his two kids, grew up. The kids are divided on the issue: daughter Jennifer (Brittany Boyd) likes it, while the older Matthew (Tom Guiry), who lives his life sulking between his headphones, hates the idea. Matthew hasn't come to terms with his mother's death and as a result, is having trouble coping with his new stepmom, Laura (Helen Slater). A nod to the original TV series is made early on as the family packs, which sets up their meeting with the dog while on their way to their new home. The family is delayed as an accident is being cleared, where a dog's former owner dies in the crash. Jennifer spies the collie by the roadside, instantly recognizing her as Lassie, while her brother, who has been chiding her over the nonexistence of Santa Claus, thinks this is another fantasy from his sister's imagination.

When the dog follows them to a restaurant, they decide to keep her, and head off to the farm, a dilapidated building that puts even more of a damper on both Matthew and Laura's enthusiasm for the move. At first Matthew wants nothing to do with the dog, but when Lassie leads him to a secluded swimming hole, he begins to realize the dog's intelligence, and soon bonds with the animal. Matthew also becomes attracted to the neighbor's daughter (Michelle Williams as April), much to the chagrin of the local sheep baron's son, who also has eyes for the girl. When Matthew's father is unable to find work and decides the family should move back to the city, Matthew has to come up with a plan that would allow them to stay, which pits them against their wealthy neighbor (Frederic Forrest) who has been grazing their sheep on the Turner property. It will take courage, determination, and a collie to make things right, and bring the Turner family together.

This remake contains all the elements that made the original a classic, with a few modernizations thrown in, some of which will date the picture over time. The conflict Matthew undergoes in coming to terms with his mother's death, and accepting his stepmother in the process are central to the story, as is the bonding of a boy to his dog. Like the Lassie of old, this one is an extremely intelligent and empathetic creature, and it's hard not to fall in love with her. There is also the conflict that arises with the neighbors, which increases the drama, but this part of the story does not have a proper resolution given the magnitude of their misdeeds, and are let off far too lightly for my liking.

The acting is pretty good, and it is always nice to see the gentle Richard Farnsworth, who here plays the grandfather. Most of the movie plays out well, with good pacing and development, but the ending is somewhat of a cop-out, trying to end on an upbeat note, while brushing off the consequences of events earlier in the climax. Still, Lassie does a good job at entertaining, but some scenes may be too upsetting for younger children, and a pre-screening by parents of the final segments may be in order.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Lassie is presented in an anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer. The image is well defined, though does show some signs of edge enhancement. Colors are reasonably saturated, but don't appear as vibrant as I would have expected. Some scenes are a bit on the dark side. Grain is light, but well rendered. A good—but not exceptional—presentation.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: English audio is available in both a Dolby Digital 5.1 format and Dolby Surround. As expected, the 5.1 track is more enveloping, with a good, wide soundstage, with suitable surround use. Dialogue is clear and easily discernable. Frequency range is respectable, with moderate use of the sub. The Prologic mix is less expansive and more center focused. No major technical deficiencies were noted. The French track listed on the package is not included on the disc.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 11 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Static menus and minimal options are all that can be found here.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Matthew Turner: This dog stinks.
Jennifer Turner: Look who's talking.

Everyone loves Lassie. This 1994 revisit of a favorite canine character delivers a decent story and the type of emotional content one would expect. I would disagree with the cover blurb in that this film should be pre-screened, due to some adolescent hijinx of a serious nature, and some disturbing sequences that may be too intense for younger viewers. The ending was a bit too Hollywood for my liking, but the dog and the presentation were likeable.


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