Dean Spanley
Starring: Sam Neill, Jeremy Northam, Peter O'Toole and Bryan Brown
Directed by: Toa Fraser



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What a wonderfully odd heart-warming film…Dean Spanley takes a moment to get rolling. But, when it does, your inner child will be giddy with glee.

Story goes…A swami has a soiree on the theory of past lives in which several local townsfolk of a Edwardian English village attend. Four are to be our players for the film before us: crotchety old mean-as-a-wasp Fisk Senior (Peter O’Toole), his son Young Fisk (Jeremy Northam), a man who can get what you want for a price, Wrather ( Bryan Brown) and Dean “Wag” Spanley (Sam Neill).

After Young Fisk invites Dean Spanley for a drink the story blossoms (give it time). Seems when the upstanding Dean indulges in a very specific aperitif its nectar sends him deep into the recesses of his subconscious – where his past life, as a dog, peaks through.

Young Fisk steps into the whole phenom with a healthy skeptic’s eye. But after chats with the rascal Wrather, seizes this opportunity to continually inebriate the good Dean and delve into the story of the young dog he once was; and here, that is no innuendo.

The result is so touching it borders on sappy. But, once in a while you need a shot of happy-time fables that come sans underworld tweens or loud steadycam-filled bullet-filled ballets...

The Dean Spanley film is based on the very beloved book by Lord Dunsany – a fantasy writer well known to Brits, and an in-the-know author for literary hounds. So, you’ll watch the opening credits wondering, “Where did that intro go?” but, the decision was no doubt due to the entirety of the author’s work, not this story; as the contents are grown up enjoyment-geared and unlike Lemony Snicket as the artworks mislead…odd choice, but there you go. Sadly, you have to invest in the film to enjoy it; it’s a good ½ way in by the time it grabs you…but, you may find the wait worth the time if you are a film enthusiast over the age of say 30.

Peter O’Toole was an acting treasure (he has passed since the film's release). Here he makes his task of fussbug look easy. But, the range of emotions and the subtly with which he lays them down, will have you gobsmacked.

Jeremy Northam, looking adorable as ever, plays the dowdy awestruck Young Fisk with a close hand. A wonderful performance.

But the star, in name and performance, goes to the remarkably handsome, Sam Neill. His stepping into the skin of a once-dog is superb. The past life “slips” delivered masterfully. You may laugh aloud as he sniffs a new friend or has, frankly, his orgasmic-like reactions to a libation as the others look on in magnificent awe.

Dean Spanley is a fairy tale. And, if you’re a dog lover, hell, an animal lover, you may want to buy this if it ever gets international dvd coverage; right now, enjoy on Netflix or Amazon Video.

Snack recommendation: Hot Pot (translation = crock pot stew-y type dish).



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