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IN SHORT: Great for the kidlets. [Rated [PG] ]
A couple of things to note before we begin, since we don't normally cover direct to video releases. Since that would automatically put the dollar rating at rental level it's a moot point. So I'll make like Ebert and do the thumbs up or down thing. Second, since I don't have any kids of my own, I go by what I know from my niece (9) and nephew (6) who know they have the best uncle in the world 'cuz I let them write their own reviews of the movies aimed at kidlets. We'll add those when they get the tape. Lastly we don't compare to source material, in this case neither the original novels nor the first movie.
Shiloh Season is one of the rare sequels that can stand completely on its own feet. Everything that you need to know from the first flick is naturally introduced in a dynamite script by Dale Rosenbloom. Heck, if even 50% of the 200 movies I'll screen this year were this well written, I'd have a much more tolerable job. Even a city bred kid like me can get wistful over a story set in a country town called "Friendly," where the mailman doesn't wear a uniform and no one has computers or video games. It's the old 50s teevee kind of world, gentle and soothing on the surface, but with some danger bubbling under the surface.
To bring you up to date quickly: at the end of the last flick Marty Preston (Zachary Brown) was given a hunting dog named Shiloh in exchange for 20 hours of work for a mean, nasty, drunk and paranoid neighbor named Judd Travers (Scott Wilson). As this flick kicks in, Judd wants Shiloh back and he has all sorts of excuses why his deal with Judd isn't valid. Protecting his boy is mailman Ray (Michael Moriarty) who has offered the hand of friendship, always refused, to his neighbor since they themselves were kidlets. Of greater concern to Dad is that Judd is hunting on posted land out of season. One stray, drunken shot and any one of his three kidlets could bite the dust.
Tensions escalate when Marty and his best friend Dave play "spy" on Judd's land and are almost caught when they stop him from shooting a squirrel. There's also some petty vandalism in the town which fuels Judd's paranoia and soon the problems between the families begin to escalate towards Hatfield and McCoy status. Every time a child goes missing or comes home late, there is fear in the house.
So what does this movie do? It gently defuses each situation in a way that any single digit kidlet can learn great lessons without feeling preached to. In a town as small as Friendly, everyone knows everybody's business. Teacher Miss Talbot (Dawn McMillan) addresses all of these rumors in her classroom, and remarkably doesn't preach. Same deal for the dinner-time conversations at the Preston table. Both mom (Ann Dowd) and dad are involved parental units, something rarely seen these days either on the big screen or the small.
The moments of tension are real, but there is nothing that will terrify any kidlet. You may have to explain drunkenness to the very smallest of young'uns and there are a couple of references in the dialog to Judd's abusive father. Shiloh, the dog, is a cute pup and does the Lassie thing a couple of times and there's a nice, unforced resolution to everything as the film ends. I think both the kidlets in my life are going to be entranced.
Nothing here makes my dormant parental genes fire off warning shots. Shiloh 2 comes very highly recommended
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