It's clear that only a handful of big-shot movie stars have enough clout to turn a film's opening weekend into a sizzling cash bonanza. Millions the world over will queue on day one to see Mel Gibson, Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts glow on screen, no matter how dire the film.
It's encouraging, then, to see that dogs can have the same effect. Well, one dog anyway. The canine in question is Moose, better known to many of you as Eddie, the super-bright, highly eccentric pooch from "Frasier" who spends lots of time staring obsessively at the pompous-but-vulnerable Seattle shrink. It is Moose who is the star of "My Dog Skip", and he really must be the only reason the film rocketed in the States since, Moose apart, it's a bland, sentimental confection in which a sick layer of treacle spreads relentlessly across the screen.
The film, luckily for it, is taken from Willie Morris' 1995 bestseller, a rites-of-passage tale set in 1940s Mississippi, in which a young boy - Willie - crosses over into adulthood with the help of his dog, Skip. This is the kind of cutesy, idealised world where Willie's parents (Kevin Bacon and Diane Lane) cannot be anything but super-decent and ultra-concerned. It's such a shame that Bacon, who has returned to form with roles which harness his powerful subtlety, is wasted in a film of such tedium, transparency and cliché. The assorted dogs, however, who portray Skip at various stages of his life, do supply the pep which is conspicuously missing elsewhere. Woof woof.