Friday July 2, 1999
There's a blond-haired boy in a movie this summer who struggles with the nature of evil, who wants to work for the greater good, but isn't always sure how.
His name is not Anakin Skywalker.
The protagonist of "Shiloh 2: Shiloh Season," 12-year-old Marty Preston (Zachary Browne), tackles some of the tough questions kids face as they approach adulthood, and he does it without a blaster or a spaceship. His sidekick: an adorable beagle named Shiloh.
Many a beagle no doubt was adopted on the heels of 1997's "Shiloh," in which Marty rescued the abused hunting dog from big meanie Judd Travers (Scott Wilson). The sequel, based on the second book of a trilogy by Newberry Award-winning writer Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, offers more of the same family fare. The filmmakers can proudly hold up their work before any congressional committee investigating movies marketed to kids. The only gun in sight is a hunting rifle, and it's owned by the unheroic Judd.
In this earnest but dull installment, the beer-swilling, tobacco-spitting Judd wants his dog back. His threats against the Preston family don't get him far, but they fill out the first half of the film. The second half has Marty contemplating whether a man as downright hateful as Judd--someone who drinks while driving, who (in the first movie) hit Shiloh in the head with a rifle butt--can change his ways.
Parents should be pleased with the messages provided by Dale Rosenbloom's script, which while occasionally creaky at least isn't too preachy. That's not to say adults will be entertained. Unlike the best of Disney's animated movies, which operate on separate levels for parent and child, "Shiloh 2" is strictly for the kids. Elementary schoolers might be transfixed; grown-ups, meanwhile, will be counting the unnecessary scenes that pad the movie out to its 96-minute running time.
Director Sandy Tung, who previously directed the Schoolbreak Special "The Day the Senior Class Got Married," draws a nice performance from Browne, who is smart and eager to please without being grating. Tung clearly kept the home video market in mind while directing "Shiloh 2"; the shots are composed for TV, save a few amateurish point-of-view shots that should have been excised completely.
Reprising the role of the father, Michael Moriarty delivers a performance that is too even; what worked for him as District Attorney Ben Stone on "Law & Order" seems just unemotional here. But the strangest bit of casting is Rod Steiger, whose role in the sequel is about two minutes longer than what constitutes a cameo. Wilson provides the sole interesting performance as the proud but emotionally damaged Judd.
Shiloh 2: Shiloh Season, 1999. PG for mild thematic elements. A Dale Rosenbloom/Carl Borack Production in association with Utopia Pictures, released by Legacy Releasing. Director Sandy Tung. Producers Carl Borack and Dale Rosenbloom. Executive producer Seth Willenson. Supervising producers Mark Yellen and Zane W. Levitt. Screenplay by Dale Rosenbloom based on the novel by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Editor Tom Seid. Director of photography Troy Smith. Costumes Rikke Rosbaek. Music Joel Goldsmith. Production design Joseph B. Tintfass. Casting Laura Schiff. Running time: 96 minutes. Michael Moriarty as Ray Preston. Scott Wilson as Judd Travers. Zachary Browne as Marty Preston. Rod Steiger as Doc Wallace.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times