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KIDS ON FILM

Lassie Comes Home to the Hearts of Youngsters Once Again

August 04, 1994|PATRICK MOTT | Patrick Mott is a frequent contributor to The Times Orange County Edition.

A wandering Lassie is rescued from a car wreck by the Turner family, but the bonding and family values don't bloom until the collie survives a wolf fight and rich kids on tractors, among other things. (Rated PG).

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OK, collie breeders, you can start making plans for that luxury condo in Hawaii. Your champion has returned.

And as a result, kids of the latest generation are forming a mental image of their ideal smartest, bravest, best friend, and it looks a lot like a dog. Specifically, the dog, the most famous sidekick with four paws, Lassie.

The latest film of the same name isn't exactly a nail-biting, car chase-loaded action picture with loads of gunplay (actually, one shot is fired) and dazzling techno-glitz, but there's apparently something about Lassie that can transcend all that in the minds of the smaller fry.

That younger segment of the young set made up a good portion of the audience at a recent "Lassie" screening, and a few of them seemed ready to start pestering their parents for a collie as soon as the end credits began to roll.

"Yeah, maybe," said 10-year-old Michael Ettefagh of Yorba Linda, adding that he came away from the film with a sense that a genuine friendship between man and beast can be formed.

"It was very emotional and exciting and dramatic. I liked the part where Matt (the Turners' son) jumped up and tried to keep the other boy from shooting Lassie. It showed that he was trying to save his best friend."

Like other kids who saw the film, Michael had a nodding acquaintance with Lassie. He recalled seeing an episode of the old television show.

Even 3-year-old Christina Chambers of Anaheim said she had seen Lassie films before going to the latest incarnation of the classic dog story.

Christina, with some prodding from her mother Lily, said she most vividly recalled Lassie's fight with a wolf in a dark cave. However, she added, "It wasn't too scary."

(Some things never change. What would a Lassie movie be without a battle with a wolf?)

Brothers Ray and Andrew Aivazian of Chino Hills, ages 5 and 3, respectively, both said they loved the film, although Ray did most of the speaking on behalf of his brother.

"I liked it best," he said, "when the boy hugged Lassie at the end and that he was happy that he was alive."

This brings up yet another classic bit of canine filmmaking: the fight for life in the rushing river followed by the joyful reunion between boy and dog. Vintage Lassie at its most heart-tugging.

That scene also stuck in the mind of 4-year-old Jeremy Miles of Orange, who said the film lived up to his expectations. It was left to his brother Nathaniel, however, to bring up one fairly obvious reason for his entire family to go to see "Lassie."

"I loved the movie," said Nathaniel, 8, "because Lassie looked just like our dog Miss Murphy."

A collie?

"Yes," said Nathaniel, "only she's not as smart as Lassie."

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