Saving Shiloh
The voyage of the beagle
Release Date: 2006

Ebert Rating: ***½

BY ROGER EBERT / May 12, 2006

"Saving Shiloh" is the third and final "Shiloh" film, and fully as worthy as the others. It's a family film that deals with real problems and teaches real values, and yet is exciting and entertaining. We come to really care about the young boy Marty, his family and friends, and the ominous presence of their neighbor, Judd. Marty, now played by Jason Dolley, has grown up during the series and does some wise thinking in this film.

All three films are based on much-loved novels by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, and the tension in all three centers on the neighbor Judd (Scott Wilson), who has a drinking problem, gets in fights, wrecks his car, and as before, seems to have no occupation except for shooting squirrels in the trees around his cabin. Wilson plays the character full-bore, not as a villain in a family film but as a complex and wounded person, earnestly trying to change.

Marty believes in him. Marty's father, Ray (Gerald McRaney), has known Judd most of his life, and disliked him until recently. His change of heart came in the first film, after Marty rescued the abused dog Shiloh from Judd, made him his own, and in the process broke into Judd's isolation for the first time. By this third film, Marty has won Judd's confidence to such a degree that the man shares a painful memory of his own father: "Sometimes he beat me when he was sad. Sometimes he beat me when he was happy. Sometimes he was just happy to beat me."

Judd becomes the suspect when a local man disappears after the two men get in a bar fight. Judd is suspected again in a series of thefts. Marty believes in him, and his dad backs him up: Judd is a troubled man, but not a thief and certainly not a killer. Local gossip is quick to blame Judd for everything that goes wrong, but Marty's teacher focuses on the principle that a man is innocent until proven guilty, and Marty puts that into practice. Judd still keeps his dogs chained, but Marty finds from the local vet that chained dogs are unhappy and mean, and tells Judd he and his dad will help fence in his yard. In this and other ways, Marty stands true.

All of this may sound too much like an after-school special, so I should add that Marty, his best friend Samantha (Taylor Momsen) and his sisters Dara Lynn (Kyle Chavarria) and Becky (Liberty Smith) live ordinary kid lives, have ordinary kid days, fool around, and bring us lots of smiles. His dad and mom (Ann Dowd) are loving and supportive, and that's rare when so many movie parents are wrong-headed or missing.

It's commendable, too, that in this film growing old and dying are treated respectfully; there's a visit to the grave of Samantha's grandfather Doc Wallace, and a visit to the nursing home where Marty's grandmother is slipping into Alzheimer's. "Saving Shiloh" doesn't overplay its lessons on life, but it contains them, and they give it values many family movies simply ignore. Carl Borack produced and Dale Rosenbloom directed the first film; they co-produced "Shiloh 2: Shiloh Season" (1999) and "Saving Shiloh," both directed by Sandy Tung.

As for melodrama, there is some business involving the thieves that is fairly exciting but also fairly unbelievable. And a climactic scene where Dara Lynn slips off a bridge into the river, and Marty and Shiloh dive in to save her. The film nicely modulates the danger, making it scary but not traumatizing. Everyone involved with this film obviously had respect for the family audiences they are aiming at, and it's surprising how moving the film is, and how wise, while still just seeming to be about a boy and his dog, his family, and the mean man next door who isn't so mean, if you get to know him.

Cast & Credits

Marty Preston: Jason Dolley
Judd Travers: Scott Wilson
Ray Preston: Gerald McRaney
Samantha Wallace: Taylor Momsen
Dara Lynn Preston: Kyle Chavarria
Louise Preston: Ann Dowd
Becky Preston: Liberty Smith
Mrs. Wallace: Bonnie Bartlett

Utopia Pictures presents a film directed by Sandy Tung. Written by Dale Rosenbloom, based on the novel by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Running time: 90 minutes. Rated PG (thematic elements and mild peril).

copyright 2005,

May 12, 2006
'Saving Shiloh' and the Thrill of Wholesome Suspense

Actually, it's not Shiloh the adorable beagle who needs saving during most of this third film based on Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's novels about him. It's his abusive former owner, Judd Travers (Scott Wilson). The little boy who now owns Shiloh, Marty Preston (Jason Dolley), poses the question in voice-over: "All I could think about was how mean Judd used to be. Could somebody like that really change?"

Like the earlier Shiloh films, this one is set in a lovely rural world where houses have screen doors and front porches, but there's nothing simplistic about life there. Marty learns from his parents, his friends, a veterinarian, a teacher and even a kindly bartender about fairness, prejudice, motivations for human cruelty and the likelihood of moral salvation.

This is also a realistic world, one in which every scare doesn't turn into a tragedy, children are bored by visiting their grandmother at the nursing home, and emotion can be embarrassing. (Judd reacts to Marty's offer of friendship by smiling shyly and saying, "Well, then.")

"Saving Shiloh" is touching, intelligent and admirably thoughtful, but more action-packed than its predecessors, thanks to escaped convicts, a local murder and a truly suspenseful finale, with lives at stake. (But it's such wholesome suspense!) Most important, the dog that plays Shiloh gets plenty of cute close-ups and reaction shots.

"Saving Shiloh" is rated PG (Parental guidance suggested). It includes some mild violence, references to a corpse and a fairly frightening near-drowning.

Saving Shiloh

Opens today in New York and Los Angeles.

Directed by Sandy Tung; written by Dale Rosenbloom, based on the novel by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor; director of photography, Lex du Pont; edited by Clarinda Wong; music by Adam Gorgoni; production designer, Cat Cacciatore; produced by Carl Borack and Mr. Rosenbloom; released by New Dog Distribution. In Manhattan at the AMC Empire 25, 42nd Street at Eighth Avenue. Running time: 90 minutes.

WITH: Scott Wilson (Judd Travers), Gerald McRaney (Ray Preston), Jason Dolley (Marty Preston), Ann Dowd (Louise Preston), Kyle Chavarria (Dara Lynn Preston), Liberty Smith (Becky Preston), Taylor Momsen (Samantha), Jordan Garrett (David Howard) and Bonnie Bartlett (Mrs. Wallace).

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

May 12, 2006

Saving Shiloh

By Sheri Linden

Bottom line: Plain and simple but never simple-minded.

Plain and simple but never simple-minded, the final chapter in the "Shiloh" trilogy -- based on the young-adult novels by prolific Newbery Medal winner Phyllis Reynolds Naylor -- is solid family fare. Like its source material, the Missouri-shot "Saving Shiloh" is down-home country without condescending to hicks from the sticks.

Its performances are clear-eyed and unfussy, with especially strong work by Scott Wilson as the villainous neighbor who redeems himself. An adorable beagle -- and a few cameos by cats -- round out the mix. Most impressive, though, is the way this boy-and-his-dog saga addresses ethical dilemmas without an ounce of dogma. The film's unadorned qualities won't make it leader of the boxoffice pack, but it's sure to be a home video perennial after its limited release.

Marty (a sympathetic performance by Jason Dolley) is the eldest child of the Prestons and owner of Shiloh, a beagle pup he rescued two movies ago from the abusive Judd Travers (Wilson). This time around, he and his best friend, David (Jordan Garrett), get into Hardy Boys mode after they discover an abandoned car in the woods and the owner turns up murdered. Most everyone for miles around, including David, his city-sophisticate parents (his father's a journalist, and his mother serves fancy food like asparagus) and Marty's opinionated sister, Dara Lynn (Kyle Chavarria), suspect the reclusive, ornery Judd. But Marty and his folks (Gerald McRaney, Ann Dowd) believe the man is capable of change, especially as he recuperates from an accident caused by his own drunken driving.

The murder mystery unfolds with key detective work by Shiloh and little suspense for anyone over 10. Marty, meanwhile, cleverly schemes to reform Judd's mean ways with his remaining dogs. Without sinking into melodrama, Dale Rosenbloom's script makes clear that the man learned his brand of toughness at the hands of his father. Through it all, director Sandy Tung cuts to the thoughtful reaction shots of the floppy-eared title character, who learns a worthwhile lesson or two along with all the other characters.

Saving Shiloh

By David DiCerto
Catholic News Service

NEW YORK (CNS) -- Completing the trilogy based on Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's Newbery Award-winning children's books, "Saving Shiloh" (New Dog) finds the titular beagle's young owner, Marty (Jason Dolley), reaching out to befriend the dog's abusive previous owner, Judd (Scott Wilson).

The latter's attempts to amend his mean-spirited ways are met with suspicion by the townspeople, so when the driver of an abandoned car is discovered murdered, Judd becomes the main suspect. Given his brutish past everyone thinks he's guilty -- everyone but Marty.

Despite modest production values, director Sandy Tung's disarming boy-and-his-dog tale wins you over with a touching performance by Wilson, an earnest, redemptive message about opening your heart to others ... and, of course, the film's adorable, floppy-eared star.

Sweet but not overly sentimental, the gentle and leisurely paced "Saving Shiloh" is an antidote to much of the frenzied fare aimed at kids today. Here's a family film that should send both children and their parents home with their tails wagging.

The film contains some mild menace and peril involving children and a homicide subplot. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

The NYC Movie Guru

Release Date: May 12th, 2006 (AMC Empire 25) by New Dog Distribution.
The Cast: Scott Wilson, Gerald McRaney, Jason Dolley, Ann Dowd, Kyle Chavarria, Liberty Smith, Taylor Momsen, Jordan Garrett, Bonnie Bartlett, Kari.
Directed by Sandy Tung.

BASIC PREMISE: A young boy named Marty (Dolley) and his dog Shiloh investigate a murder mystery while befriending Judd (Wilson), Shiloh’s former abusive owner.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Saving Shiloh has plenty of adventure and drama to keep both young and old viewers wide awake. The plot includes an uncomplicated murder mystery which adds some tension, but not nearly as much as the challenging relationship that Marty develops with Judd. Most of the townspeople immediately suspect Judd of being involved in the murder of a man he had a fight with the night before the man disappeared. Even though Judd had once abused Shiloh and initially seems like a mean-spirited individual, Marty wants to bring out the nice qualities in him to prove to everyone that he’s not such a bad guy after all. This special bond between the two becomes the real adventure and drama. Scott Wilson gives a very convincing and heartfelt performance as Judd. The other standout performance is actually by the dog Kari that plays the adorable, smart Shiloh. If there were Oscars for dogs, Kari would be nominated for sure. Screenwriter Dale Rosenblum breathes life into all the characters. Unlike in recent family film Hoot, the true-to-life script feels pure, wholesome and doesn’t rely on juvenile, low-brow humor which feels like a breath of fresh air. Director Sandy Tung also shows skill by keeping the pace moving at an appropriately brisk pace and provides plenty of eye candy with the picturesque natural scenery.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: The powerful, moving message which underlies the relationship between Marty and Judd is that compassion and tolerance are important qualities to have in any kind of relationship. Just like Marty says in the last line of the film: if you open your heart, anything can happen. The same can be said for opening one’s mind to look beyond stereotypes and rumors—which is exactly what Marty does when he befriends Judd. By the sunny conclusion to the Shiloh trilogy, both Marty and Judd manage to learn from one other and to mature in their own separate ways.



IN A NUTSHELL: An adventurous, wholesome and heartfelt film for the whole family to enjoy!

RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)

On screen: 'Saving Shiloh' a case of puppy love for young teens

"Saving Shiloh" completes the trilogy based on the popular children's novels of Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Those who enjoyed the first two films -- "Shiloh" (1996) and "Shiloh 2" (1999) -- probably will like this one as well, although you don't need to have seen the earlier installments to pick up on the storyline here.

The target audience would be around the age of the main character, Marty (Jason Dolley), who's about 14; the three-star rating is meant for them. Adults who accompany kids will not be too much put upon, while world-wise teenagers will opt out.

Shiloh, as fans of the book will know, is a cute beagle. The dog lives with an idyllic family in beautiful, wooded Tom Sawyer country somewhere around the Ohio River; the small town nearby is equally idyllic. Still, there are serpents in paradise.

The "Shiloh" movies and presumably the books, too, mainly concern Marty and Judd, an old coot on the next parcel, over the creek and through the woods. Judd (veteran actor Scott Wilson) is a grouchy loner whom nobody likes.

In earlier installments, he was a reprobate who was cruel to his dogs, then including Shiloh. The beagle ran away and became Marty's pet.

Now Judd appears to have reformed, and good-hearted Marty, if not exactly his friend, believes in his transformation. Most people in the town continue to think the worst.

Someone with whom Judd had been quarreling turns up dead, so fingers point toward the old guy, also blamed for some robberies that have been taking place.

Among the few to give Judd the benefit of the doubt are Marty and his dad (Gerald McRaney), though circumstantial evidence and Judd's poor reputation make supporting him difficult. "Saving Shiloh" is about how all this gets sorted out, a puzzle that involves Marty and his best friend doing a bit of detective work. Shiloh proves to be good at sniffing out clues.

"Saving Shiloh" is a well-made movie that can't escape being lumped in with Saturday-morning fare. Still, it gets into deeper subject matter than most of its kind. For example, there's a painful visit to Marty's grandma, a victim of mental deterioration. And of course there's the whole business about the murder.

For children who read the Naylor books, this is a clear attraction. For those looking for a date movie, this isn't it.

"Saving Shiloh" THREE STARS

Drama. A New Dog release directed by Sandy Tung. Starring Jason Dolley and Scott Wilson. Rated PG for thematic elements and mild peril. Opens today at AMC's Galleria 16, Redondo Beach, and AMC's Rolling Hills 20, Torrance