"Family Gains Strength Rallying Around Fun Dog Events"
In the video WIENER DOG NATIONALS, a widower’s children pull their father into participating, reluctantly, in amateur dachshund races. As, his family’s motivation starts to build, Phil’s (Jason Landon) countenance brightens and his confidence builds: even to the point of engaging in a happy, innocent love interest with Melanie (Alicia Witt), who helps organize the races. Forces against Phil’s family include the villainous Ms. Merryweather (Morgan Fairchild) and the racing judge (Bryan Batt), with whom Merryweather is always consorting to get an unfair advantage by attacking Phil’s family with legalistic rule-keeping. In the end, those who obey the spirit of the law, in truth and love, are rewarded as top dogs.
WIENER DOG NATIONALS is director Kevan Peterson’s debut as a feature-length director. He also wrote and executive produced the movie, which does send a bit of an indie or late-night-flick-on-the-Disney-Channel tone, but it’s still an amicable show.
The story unfolds slowly, revealing that Phil’s young son is inspired by his late mother’s involvement in amateur dog racing. The mother’s passing is not shown and the family’s slight despair is tender but distanced, as if she passed away a year or more before the story begins.
The dog races are more about fun than hardcore competition, except for the villain, Merryweather. This imbalanced miscreant never speaks of a husband or her daughter’s father. She seems to be chasing a childish dream, especially when she’s juxtaposed against children entering puppies in the contest. Disdaining her young daughter’s chance to get involved, Merryweather instructs the girl to instead tend to a stuffed animal, while she and her entourage handle real animals. Regrettably, the woman’s bad mothering is not punished or redeemed, and her daughter is never relieved of her beratement.
[SPOILERS FOLLOW] However, some of the villain’s true colors are outed near the very end when she is caught on tape cheating. This becomes ironic, since she spends all her time trying to catch others and disqualify them from the race in one way or another, quoting subsections of rules in an outrageous fashion (it’s just a wiener dog race, remember?). The over-the-top, froo-froo-blond scoundrel takes the race far too seriously, but the silliness adds to the movie’s appeal to children.
Meanwhile, Phil’s wholesome, yet fairly relatable family wins points all-around as heroic in nature; from the teenage son’s personal support of his younger siblings, to the father’s work to keep his motherless children from falling into depression or despair. In the end, the family comes together, rallying around their wiener dog, Shelly, (named for shelter dogs). Wrong is righted in the end, and some extra surprises provide delight.
(BBB, Cap, M) Very strong moral worldview with some pro-capitalist elements in clean children’s movie with a thirtysomething widower whose family is strengthened by participating in a newfound thrill – dachshund racing; no foul language, but teenage brother calls younger brother mild names; in storyline, animal is forced into performing, which results in an injury; no sex, but adult male flexes biceps near woman and is seen advertising muscle-building formula; no nudity; no alcohol; no drugs (only muscle-building supplement); and, father begins somewhat stern with children; younger siblings sneak away from parent and avoid parental permission to obtain a goal, villain is consistently and disturbingly negative, neglectful and belittling to her young child, villain bribes judge and attempts to legalistically use dog race rules against protagonist several times, main character’s family begins with very slight dysfunction in wake of wife/mother’s death, some product placement, and images of Jack-O-Lanterns appear in a short commercial.
WIENER DOG NATIONALS is a lighthearted tale about a family that grows closer through dachshund racing. Phil, a young widower, is forced into action when his youngest son enters a local wiener dog competition. Caring for a new dog and fending off the actions of a villainous racer infuses plenty of renewed spirit into Phil and his family. His children, including two youngsters and one older teenager, are front and center. The family increasingly works together to achieve a winning attitude revolving around the exploits of their new four-legged pal, Shelly.
WIENER DOG NATIONALS doesn’t have an explicitly Christian worldview, but the underlying morality is much stronger than in many family movies. For example, lying, cheating and irresponsibility are all rebuked. Despite that, however, the villain’s constant bad attitude toward her own daughter is never overtly rebuked or redeemed. This family movie would most appeal to the under-age-10 crowd. It has some over-the-top twists and silly characters, along with some amateurish acting. Overall, however, the production makes WIENER DOG NATIONALS entertaining enough to keep viewers wondering who the “wieners” will be.