Shiloh 2: Shiloh Season (1999)

21 Mar


Smith’s Verdict: **1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

I hate to knock a feel-good family movie that has good intentions and positive messages to convey. But the main problem with “Shiloh 2: Shiloh Season,” sequel to the terrific 1997 family drama “Shiloh” and based upon the novel “Shiloh Season” by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, is that it felt the way you couldn’t label about the first film (or at least, most people couldn’t say about it), and that is “preachy.” This just felt to me like generic, wholesome fluff with nothing too memorable to gain from it.

The original film, “Shiloh” (which I loved), had its morals and messages too. But they were in a film that was written more intelligently and with more subtlety than what the filmmakers of this sequel were going for. I don’t mind that messages from the original film are carried over a little further if it’s done right. But throughout the movie, I felt as if I was being had—as if I was being hammered with the ultimate lesson this movie had to deliver. And I never felt that way about the original film. And I know what you might be thinking—“It’s a kid’s movie! They’re supposed to hammer the message down hard on the kids watching it!” A) It’s supposed to be a family movie, not a “kid’s movie.” B) I don’t think kids like to be manipulated by what they watch as much as their parents like to imagine.

Maybe I’m being a little too harsh. After all, at least these issues are addressed in this movie, and they are ethics that kids can identify with. (I give credit to the original “Shiloh” novels for that.) The “Shiloh” stories are about protectiveness, determination, and helpfulness in the tale of a boy protecting a dog from its cruel owner (the original film) and seeing if the owner can change his cruel ways (this film).

“Shiloh 2: Shiloh Season” brings back the characters from the original film, including young Marty Preston (Zachary Browne, taking over for Blake Heron) who is still learning life lessons while protecting his dog, the cute, adorable beagle Shiloh, which Marty earned from its mean owner, Judd Travers (Scott Wilson, reprising his role from the earlier film). Judd is so unpleasant that even the local women are secretly talking about boycotting him away from town. He gets drunk constantly, he shoots what he doesn’t care is in season or not, and has a resentful attitude toward Marty for now having his dog.

Someone is pulling pranks on Judd—letting loose his hunting dogs, scratching his pickup truck, and knocking over his mailbox. Judd thinks Marty’s to blame, and this leads to many confrontations between Judd and Marty, and Judd and Marty’s dad, Ray (Michael Moriarty, also reprising his role from the earlier film).

Also back is the character of Marty’s mother (Ann Dowd), who does what she’s required to do, same as in the original film. There’s also Doc Wallace from the original film (again played by Rod Steiger) who is still around to give helpful advice, and while the character does seem like more of a fortune cookie this time around, he does manage a couple convincing helpful scenes with Marty. New characters include Marty’s rapscallion school chum David (Joe Pichler) and his new middle school teacher, Miss Talbot (Dawn McMillan), who knows how to teach the right ethical lessons to her class.

Of the acting, Scott Wilson is the most interesting performer in the cast, but that’s probably because his Judd Travers has always been the most interesting character in these stories. He has the role of a pathetic man—mean and lowly only as a way of not showing how he really feels. He was kicked around as a child, and now he kicks his dogs around and he’s a lonely man who feels better when he’s drinking or hunting. That doesn’t leave much for society to bear with him; he’s seen as a mean SOB. But can he change? Is anybody truly cruel forever? Can a troubled past keep a man troubled for the rest of his life? For all the machinery that this movie is composed of, Wilson manages to give a solid performance here.

Mainly, what it comes down to with the teachings of the morals & ethics for “Shiloh 2: Shiloh Season” is whether or not you buy it. I guess I didn’t for the most part. It does have its moments, when it’s mainly focused on the Judd Travers character, and the ending kind of works. But it’s too wholesome and generic, and not convincing enough to accept what we’re supposed to take from it.

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