December 28, 1927 [Dog Heaven]

Our littlest awoke crying. She had dreamed that our dog, Patty, had died. My wife consoled her, directing a scolding look at me--which I deserved: I’d taken the children to the movies, and Dog Heaven was on the bill. It was a strange one, involving the dog, Pete--a genuine thespian, completely convincing as a dog--and his despair over the loss of his master’s love. I felt as if it were the 1890s again, with water-sprinkler jokes and a “burlesque” suicide. But to see dear Pete dangling from a noose was more than a little off-putting. And the picture was scattered with “adult” elements, from vamping moppets to canine drunkenness. Amusing, but, it appears, not for some children.

And perhaps not every adult, either. The love story, the derelict pooches, the goodbye-cruel-world cruelties--these are all missteps. Only the few childhood evocations rang true for me: the delight and mess of knocking about the neighborhood, digging casually in the dirt, carting around the smaller children, the easy tears and easier expressions of love, hugging the dog, happy to be cut off from the adult world. The more Roach focuses on such things, the better his Rascals will get. Children always draw inwards a bit around adults; unobserved, they riot and cry and splash and stare, dreaming of plenty--but counting pennies--wandering vacant lots and alleys and woodpiles, little creatures that scatter when the bigger ones blunder too near. This is the movie I want to see; the rest shows no love for the actual heart of the world down there at knee-level.


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